City of Cape Town officials
Mr Mzawandile Hewu, Director at Department of Social Development
Departments of Education and Social Development officials
Staff of Oasis Asset Management
Professor Eric Atmore and Staff of the Centre for Early Childhood Development
Staff of 5 ECD centres in Cape Town
Ladies and Gentlemen
It gives me great pleasure to be here today as we celebrate the International Children’s Day as well as the 19th anniversary of the Oasis Group. To mark these two important milestones, the Oasis Group has invested heavily in the early childhood development sphere. This is indeed a very good partnership between a Not-for-profit organisation, Centre for Early Childhood Development and a business entity, Oasis Asset Management to upgrade Early Childhood Development facilities in the greater Cape Town region.
Programme Director, the partnership that brings us here today has been in operation for some time and has already resulted in the investment of more than R6 million for the upgrading of ECD facilities in the greater Cape Town region.
Programme Director; the importance of early childhood development was recognised by Maria Montessori as far back as the early 1900’s - she said:
“The most important period of life is not the age of university studies, but the first one, the period from birth to the age of six”. This philosophy has been further developed with the very recent research on brain development.”
Similarly, another eminent scholar Dr Jack Shonkoff, Director of the Centre on the Developing Child at Harvard University correctly argues that:
"…. what’s most important for people to understand is that a new-born at birth has most of the brain cells that we will have for our entire life, but relatively little of the connections, the circuits among the different cells."
One of our own, the late International icon Nelson Mandela told the 2002 UN Special Session on Children that:
“History will judge us by the difference we make in the everyday lives of children.”
To achieve this we need to work together across all sectors to promote and advance early childhood development. The reality of the situation is that we are unable to achieve all this alone as Government, hence the need for partnerships and private sector investment in early childhood education.
Programme Director, I want to argue that the most effective partnerships are where partners not only enrich each other but also find ways where they can mutually benefit. Our singular goal for any partnerships in education is to create space for social partners and the business community to assist in realising the achievement of Delivery Outcome 1 i.e. “Improved Quality of Basic Education”.
Our partnership with the Oasis Asset Management and it offshoot the Centre for Early Childhood Development fit faultlessly within this framework of a mutually beneficial symbiosis. We therefore owe a debt of gratitude to the bright sparks at Oasis Asset Management and at the Centre for Early Childhood Development who daily work effortlessly to change the lives of our children throughout the country.
Programme director, through deeds not words, we are laying a solid foundation in the lives of our young citizens. If we do this right, posterity will be kinder to us.
As Government, we are taking a lead in ensuring that there is universal coverage with regard to the Early Childhood Development sector. We have done this through appropriate policies and strategies. I am happy to report the National Integrated Early Childhood Development Policy was approved by Cabinet on 09th December 2015. This policy provides the framework for ensuring that all children receive a comprehensive package of services from a range of state departments and stakeholder groups.
Subsequently, the Council for Education Ministers (CEM) approved the South African National Curriculum Framework for children from Birth to Four (NCF) in the same year. The South African National Curriculum Framework for children from Birth to Four is a world-class curriculum based on the National Early Learning and Development Standards (NELDS) that were benchmarked against international standards for early learning.
We are currently rolling out the NCF in ECD centres across the country. In 2015 alone the new curriculum was rolled-out to 100 ECD registered centres that each received 2 boxes of LEGO materials each and were trained on the utilisation of the materials. We have since distributed 3 700 980 Grade R resource kits and workbooks have been delivered to 16 063 schools. Our ECD Directorate continues to work with the SABC, SANLAM and other key partners in the development and implementation of Takalani Sesame.
At the provincial level some 3 860 Grade R practitioners have been enrolled to improve their qualifications (1 845 for the Diploma in Grade R and 2 015 for the Bachelor in Education (BEd) courses).
Although, we have notched up success in the early childhood development sector, there is a room for radical changes to achieve the desired impact. Some of these steps are:
- Retain Grade R as part of the Foundation phase all grade R classes monitored and supported as part of the system.
- Implement the Moratorium on the employment of grade R practitioners with level 4 to ensure that the minimum entry level for teaching Grade R is a National Diploma.
- Create posts for qualified grade R practitioners to be employed with full benefits at the appropriate REQV level.
- Establish Centres of ECD Excellence across all provinces, in collaboration with the departments of Social Development, Health and our own Provincial Departments of Education (PEDs). The collaboration framework makes space for identified municipalities to participate in the roll-out of centres.
- Upscale the implementation of the NCF at approximately 5, 000 ECD registered centres per year.
- Train at least 12, 000 ECD practitioners on play-based learning in collaboration with UNICEF, donors and municipalities.
- Train 8, 000 Grade R practitioners on the utilisation of play-based learning supported by ICT at Teacher Centres. In addition an activity booklet and DVD on play-based learning in collaboration with UNICEF.
Ultimately, we intend to amend legislation to make Grade R compulsory by 2019.
For posterity I would love to state what today means for the early development sector here in Cape Town. I am told that the sponsorship budget will be utilised as follows:
- Upgrading ten (10) ECD centres in the Cape Metro South-East Sector (‘Cape Flats’);
- Enhancing the skills of sixty (60) teachers working in the thirty (30) ECD centres;
- Developing the skills of thirty (30) supervisors;
- Provision of educational equipment to the thirty (30) ECD centres; and
- Assistance with registration with the Provincial Department of Social Development so that they can access the state subsidy of R 15 per child per day.
Indeed, all the factors that contribute to ensuring that children access high quality services are being considered; improved competencies of ECD practitioners, improved management at ECD centres, access to high quality equipment, and in particular, meeting the requirements to get access to the state subsidy provided by the Department of Social Development.
Programme Director, no amount of breast-beating will mask the stark reality facing the sector. While, we have almost achieved universal coverage, but quality and excellence remains a huge concern. We want our children to be exposed to high quality ECD services and adequately stimulated to ensure that they reach their full potential.
In this regard, we must therefore:
- Strengthen co-ordination between departments responsible for early childhood development, and the non-profit and private sectors; and
- Increase state funding and support to ensure universal access to two years of early childhood development exposure before Grade 1.
There is so much more that we need to do to realise the vision as outlined in the National Integrated ECD policy: All infants, young children and their families in South Africa live in environments conducive to their optimal development.
In conclusion, I would like to wish you well as you continue on your journey towards the realisation of a better life for the youngest children in this country.
I thank you!