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ECD – an apex education responsibility to ensure solid foundations for learning through play

The Early Childhood Development (ECD) function shift paved the way for the Basic Education Sector to reinforce early learning foundations. “Early childhood education is the foundation for cognitive development by its very nature and the needs of infants and young children span across health, nutrition, social protection, psychosocial and cognitive development,” said Basic Education Minister, Mrs Angie Motshekga when the ECD function was officially handed over from the Department of Social Development (DSD) to the Department of Basic Education last month. The event took place at Freedom Park in Pretoria on 1 April 2022.

Another major ECD milestone is the announcement of the ECD Census results and findings on 13 May 2022. The Census, which was launched by Minister Motshekga on 26 August 2021, took place from August to December 2021. A total of 129 teams, consisting of two field workers assigned to 30 rural wards each and three fieldworkers to 45 urban wards, visited an estimated 48,000 sites across 4,392 wards.

There is limited accurate information on ECD delivery, and the lack of empirical data concerning ECD provisioning is hindering informed resource allocation, practitioner support, policy development and planning initiatives. The ECD Census 2021 counted all registered and non-registered ECD programmes to build a data management information system for the ECD sector. During data collection, fieldworkers contracted by Ikapadata, a survey research and data science company, visited each ECD programme to conduct interviews with the principal or relevant representative and record observations. The information gathered will be used to integrate ECD into the Education Management Information System (EMIS), and expand education support programmes and play-based learning. The survey will also make observations on the facilities available at the sites to enable planning for the greater inclusion of children with disabilities, and the delivery of integrated health and safety programmes. In addition, matters of registration and qualifications of the practitioners, operation times, nutrition and the number of learners and staff at the various centres were also assessed.

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