Media Statement: Signs of Relief for Early Childhood Development

 In C19PC Statements, Media Alert

The Early Childhood Development (ECD) sector can breathe a sigh of relief this week after two major announcements provide some hope for principals, teachers and children.

Employment Protection Support Scheme

After significant efforts made by ECD practitioners across the country during the #SaveOurECDWorkforce Campaign in August 2020, practitioners now know that their calls for support have not gone unheard.

The week-long national protest (17 to 21 August) saw members of the Early Childhood Development (ECD) community and supporters of their plight protesting against the announcement made by Department of Social Development (DSD) Minister, Lindiwe Zulu, on 30 July 2020. Minister Zulu stated that R1.3 billion out of the President’s Covid-19 Economic Stimulus Package would be allocated to the short term employment of 36 000 youth compliance monitors for ECD programmes. An illogical allocation when without urgent financial aid, more than 175 000 long-term ECD workforce jobs were likely to be decimated as a result of the pandemic and the national lockdown.

On 15 October the President announced his “Public investment in a mass employment strategy”. Included in this announcement is the COVID-19 Temporary Employment Protection Support Scheme, which promises to provide relief for 83 333 ECD practitioners working at
ECD programmes from now till March 2021 (a maximum of six months) – which will assist practitioners, many of whom would otherwise be retrenched.

While this support is only R760 per person per month, the fact that it targets eligible registered and unregistered centres is a significant step towards supporting the sector, and highlights the efforts of practitioners who made their voices heard . The proposed relief will
not cover the full 175 000 practitioners that the campaign highlighted as being under threat, however.

While we must watch carefully to see how the proposed support is rolled out, the announcement is an important step forward for the sector.

DSD in Court

On 20 October 2020 SA Childcare and seven other applicants brought a case against the Minister of Social Development and all MECs (except the MEC in the Western Cape). Judgement was handed down in the North Gauteng High Court by Judge Janse van

The case was brought because the ECD sector is staggering under the weight of nearly seven months of closure. Practitioners are out of options and children lack food and care. Against this tragic backdrop the Department of Social Development also opted to withhold subsidies
from the ECD centres who need it most.

A statement issued by Van Wyk and Associates highlights that the judgement Instructs the Minister and all MECs to pay full subsidies to all ECD centres during all lockdown levels, whether or not the centres are operational. This judgement applies retroactively, meaning that centres who are owed subsidy payments from the DSD have the right to expect payment of these subsidies. This applies to centres which have signed service level agreements to receive subsidies, as well as those who had not been able to sign them during the lockdown.

The Judge granted leave for the applicants to approach the court again to enforce the order should the MECs fail to make payments without delay.

This represents a significant win for thousands centres across the country, and the families they serve who have struggled to survive this pandemic.

Elisabeth Van Wyk: 078 169 0036 (English)
Antonie van Wyk: 083 600 9809 (Afrikaans)

Zaheera Mohamed: 083 387 4729
Eric Atmore: 082 568 0200

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