As advocates for children, Cotlands demands reform in the ECD sector and government’s commitment to invest in children’s early education. Early Childhood Development (ECD) lays the foundations for all future education and in the next two decades today’s pre-schoolers will be our future workforce. We need to invest early in developing a good foundation for early-education so that our children can flourish in later years of school.
Our children have the right to access to quality early learning programmes delivered by qualified ECD practitioners that have specialist knowledge about implementing early learning playgroups and toy library programmes.
This will require government to re-direct funds to these essential programmes as there is currently insufficient investment made in the sector to reach all the children in our underprivileged communities.
Cotlands wishes to highlight five main areas of change that we want to see in the ECD sector:
1. Non-centre based programmes access to programmatic funding
Non-centre based programmes such as early learning playgroups and toy libraries should be able to access programmatic funding through a one-step registration process against a set of suitable norms and standards that promote best practice and ensure quality service provisioning of sessional programmes such as playgroups and toy libraries.
2.Government prioritise funding for ECD
Government needs to prioritise funding for non-centre based early childhood development programmes (e.g. playgroups and toy libraries) that can reach and impact the lives of hundreds of thousands of children in remote and marginalised communities. These non-centre based programmes are easily implemented. These programmes offer secure, safe and accessible play and recreation spaces that are inclusive especially in underserved rural and informal communities. In cities and towns, we propose that government provides underutilized municipal infrastructure to set up similar programmes that can be easily accessible. As a strong advocate for play-based early learning opportunities, we would recommend more non-centre based programmes that can ensure more children have access to quality early learning programmes immediately.
3. Government departments to fulfil their mandate in relation to ECD
It is the mandate of the Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation to provide book libraries and toy libraries. It is the provinces responsibility to provide these services and ensure that there are sufficient play-based opportunities for young children to access. Many municipal libraries have failed to fulfil their mandate and the discretionary funding that was supposed to be made available at the municipal level has not been invested in setting up toy libraries. A wealth of skills and knowledge reside in Cotlands which should be leveraged to scale up toy libraries throughout South Africa.
4. Build skilled capacity in the ECD sector
There are many ECD practitioners in South Africa that are unqualified or underqualified. Several studies have shown that poorer children are more likely to receive poorer quality programmes due to gaps in teaching skills. We urgently need to build skilled capacity in the ECD sector if we want to achieve our goal by 2030 and provide universal access to a good quality pre-school education. Currently, many practitioners do not have any formal qualifications. We want the Bill to introduce and set minimum criteria, that all practitioners providing ECD services must have an ECD Level 4 qualification. The qualification should have core competencies required by all practitioners, but should also equip practitioners with the required skills and knowledge to not only provide ECD centre based programmes but also non-centre based programmes such as toy libraries and early learning playgroups.
5. Parental responsibility
The first five years of a child’s life is essential for their cognitive growth and development. The bill does not provide sufficient information on the importance of play-based activities at home where children predominantly spend their time. Parents need to take on the responsibility to engage in facilitated play for at least two hours a day. This will support children’s holistic development. Parents can make use of the toy library service at their municipal library by taking out age appropriate toys to stimulate their children’s development.