During the February 2019 State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Cyril Ramaphosa directed that “the responsibility for Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres will be migrated from the Department of Social Development (DSD) to the Department of Basic Education (DBE)”. This is in line with other countries that have moved from viewing ECD less as a child protection function and more as an early learning function that is led and coordinated by national ministries of education. Although the Proclamations have been signed, they will only take effect from 1 April 2022.
The DSD will remain responsible for the functions related to social support and care, and support to ECD programmes similar to the support currently provided to learners in schools. The remaining DSD functions will include child protection; psycho-social services; the child support grant; access to social services to prevent and address risk factors; parental support programmes; and partial care facilities that relate to after-school services, private hostels and temporary respite care centres.
Historically the DBE has been responsible for the early learning component of ECD. The National Curriculum Framework from birth to four (NCF) has been developed and practitioners are being trained and supported in delivering the NCF. The DBE will continue with these functions and strengthen the monitoring and support aspects of these functions. The 2015 National Integrated ECD Policy already specifies that the DBE is primarily responsible for the implementation of curriculum development, support and training, and the roll-out of the Reception Year (Grade R).
DBE functions include the development of early learning curriculum; continuity and synergy between early learning and Grade R; integration of key health messages in the school curriculum; and training, implementation and monitoring relating to curriculum implementation for birth to four-year-olds. The new functions include ensuring universal availability and adequate quality of, and equitable access to, inclusive learning opportunities; and the development, delivery, regulation, registration, quality monitoring, improvement and evaluation of ECD programmes. In terms of the new functions, the DBE will use 2021/22 for planning and preparation. During this period, the different branches will be preparing to deliver these functions, as well as prepare and develop the systems that are required for delivering the ECD function. An implementation plan is currently being developed and will be workshopped with the sector throughout the year.