Minister Fernandez calls for further clarity on ECD migration
The Western Cape Government has yet to receive further information on the proposed migration of the Early Childhood Development sector from Provincial Departments of Social Development (DSD) to the Department of Basic Education (DBE), as announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa last year.
I am concerned that the National Government continues to be unclear and vague with regards to when and how this proposed migration will take place.
I am also concerned about potential unintended implications that the proposed move will have for both the ECD and Education sector in general, especially as both sectors are still in the process of recovering from the current Covid-19 pandemic.
The Children’s Act 38 of 2005 acknowledges the intersectoral nature of ECD services and makes clear that the responsibility of registering, supporting and monitoring ECD centres lies with the Department of Social Development.
Therefore, any function shift or migration will require an amendment to the Children’s Act and any amendments will trigger the constitutional obligations of the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces to facilitate public participation.
In other words, the shift ought to take place after proper public consultation is completed, which remains a critical element of our constitutional democracy.
Bearing these facts in mind, I will now be writing to the National Minister of Social Development, Ms Lindiwe Zulu, requesting that her Department provides us with full details concerning the proposed migration, and does so as a matter of urgency.
It is unquestionable that the hard work of ensuring improved access to quality holistic ECD services is much more complicated than a simple shift of location. The Western Cape Government’s position on this migration will therefore be determined by whether the migration will improve the quality of services currently being provided. Our interests are in the future of our youngest residents.
Presently, the provincial Department of Social Development (DSD) provides funding to registered Early Childhood Development facilities and programmes that provide a range of services that comply with minimum norms and standards. These ECD services facilitate the emotional, mental, spiritual, moral, physical and social development and growth of children primarily from birth to six years.
In terms of legislation, the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (108/1996) Section 28 (1) of the Constitution sets out the rights of children concerning appropriate care (basic nutrition, shelter, health care services and social services). The ECD National Curriculum Framework for 0-4 years guides those developing programmes and working with babies, toddlers and young children from birth to age four. The document is aimed at adults working with children from birth to four years.
Early Childhood Development is critical as it provides a vehicle for early intervention and child protection; provides the conditions necessary for the realisation of the right of every infant and child to develop his/her potential to the maximum extent possible to become physically healthy, mentally alert, socially competent, emotionally sound and ready to learn, forms the basis for improving school outcomes and laying the foundation for lifelong learning; a means to reduce childhood poverty; and an opportunity to develop the skills and competencies required for economic opportunities in later life.
I will repeat what I highlighted last year: the best interests of the child must be at the heart of the process. Without proper details on the process and plans, and more information on whether additional budget will be available to achieve the objective of ECDs, this is not yet clear.