Early Childhood Development centres struggle to stay afloat during pandemic
By Keagan Mitchell 1h ago
Share this article:
Cape Town – Like many industries, Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
ECD chairperson for ward 17 in the Blue Downs/Eerste River area, Lynette Africa said ECD centres in the area suffered financially, physically and mentally.
“Throughout the pandemic, we, the ECD family, can proudly say that we supported each other, morally, and sometimes on other levels. On the other hand, it was the best time for us to go back to the drawing board and try to mend the flaws.
“We are grateful for all the help and assistance we received from various organisations, but it was unfortunately not enough for some ECD centres as they had to close down,” she said.
Programme manager at Early Learning Resource Unit (ELRU), Mario Claasen said ECD’s were reliant on parent fees, and not accessing the Department of Social Development (DSD) child subsidy affected them.
“Some of the ECD centres had to either reduce staff salaries, retrench staff or, worse, closed down their centres completely. When it was announced that ECD centres could reopen in August 2020, many centres were not prepared for the new Covid-19 regulations and needed support on how to implement this.”
However, at this stage, children could not return to the same level pre-lockdown, as per DSD regulations, to ensure social distancing in centres and many parents felt it was too late in the year to send their children back or still fearful of sending their children back.
This, in turn, meant the income levels at centres were still not at the previous level before lockdown started. Where ECD centres have reopened, they requested support in personal protection equipment, on how to adhere to the safety protocols and how to access alternative funding options.”
Claasen had a message to parents who had second thoughts of sending their children to daycare centres or crèches.
“Parents have a duty to protect and keep their children safe. However, they also have a duty to promote and facilitate their children’s access to early education. To balance these two duties in a practical sense, I would advise parents to engage and visit the ECD Centre to ensure Covid-19 protocols are being followed.”
Joshua Chigome, spokesperson for MEC of Social Development Minister Sharna Fernandez, said the Western Cape DSD was the only provincial department that continued to provide a full subsidy to fund ECD facilities’ programmes throughout lockdown.
“The Early Childhood Development Employment Stimulus Relief Fund is part of sustaining employment opportunities in the sector in light of the high unemployment rate and job losses caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. ECD operators/owners/managers must apply on behalf of their ECD service and, if successful, would pay the ECD employees. Individual ECD workers cannot apply to the fund themselves,” he said.