Early Childhood Education: The Difference Between Policy and Reality

“In making ECD a reality for our children, several challenges emerge which need to be overcome if we are to ensure that young children have their constitutional, social, educational and economic rights met. The main challenges are: political will, systemic challenges and implementation challenges....

In order to achieve the NDP outcomes, a number of immediate actions are required. These include the following: the mobilisation of political will; the crafting of ECD legislation; a substantial increase in funding; increase in provision rates and ECD programme quality; establishment of minimum training qualifications for ECD teachers; respect for ECD and Grade R teachers; increase in the competencies of government ECD officials; co-operation with the non-profit sector; a realistic and effective ECD implementation plan and costing; and a national, integrated monitoring and evaluation system.

South Africa has made some progress in meeting the rights and needs of young children, but so much more needs to be done. Twenty three years after the historic democratic elections, we still fail our youngest children and their families in many respects. Millions of young children continue to be denied access to quality ECD programmes and services. Given the immense social, educational and economic benefits of quality ECD opportunities it is imperative that every child has such an opportunity. This is an opportunity that could determine not only the destiny of a child, but also that of a nation.”

The above information was taken from the article “Early Childhood Education: The Difference Between Policy and Reality” by Eric Atmore, Michaela Ashley-Cooper, and Lauren van Niekerk, you can access a full copy of this article here.

Challenges facing the early childhood development sector in South Africa

The majority of young children in South Africa are negatively impacted by a range of social and economic inequalities.

Apartheid and the resultant socio-economic inequalities have created a childhood of adversity for most black South African children in the country, including inadequate access to health care, education, social services and quality nutrition. This has undermined the development of our children.

There has been progress in South Africa since 1994, both quantitatively and qualitatively: there have been improvements in Grade R and ECD provision over the past eighteen years; the number of children in Grade R has trebled since 2001 and quality has improved; government expenditure on Grade R has increased three-fold since 2008/09; the number of ECD centres registered with the national department of Social Development has increased to 19,500 and there are currently approximately 836,000 children in a registered ECD centres, of which 488,000 (58%) received the ECD subsidy. 

Notwithstanding the progress made in ECD provision since 1994, children in South Africa still face significant challenges; with major gaps in infrastructure, teacher training, nutrition, ECD programming, institutional capacity and funding. It is fair to say that much work is still needed, if we want to improve the quality of children’s lives in South Africa and say with confidence that the needs of our youngest children are truly being met.

The above information was taken from Challenges facing the early childhood development sector in South Africa by Michaela Ashley-Cooper, Eric Atmore and Lauren van Niekerk, you can access a full copy of this here.