2021 elections: where are the promises to our children?


In the campaign for the local elections on Monday, the needs of young children will be ignored, the authors say. The municipal councils have an important role to play in this. Photo: “Old toy” from svklimkin is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The local elections are just around the corner. Election slogans and manifestos have been drafted, and in the homes and on the streets of the country, voters ponder which promises to trust. But few election promises are made for the youngest in the country.

the Silence about early childhood development in the manifestos of all major political parties shows that the needs of our children go unheard. Early Childhood Development Practitioners (ECD), teachers, child minders, cooks, gardeners and principals, and especially our youngest children, bear the brunt of political ignorance or indifference. Your stories are important.

Margaret Xhanyiwe Math opened her ECD center Grow Victory Educare in 2007 in a converted garage that was connected to her RDP house in Kraaifontein near Cape Town. Since then, the number of children she cares for has increased every year. She has further developed her center in consultation with health inspectors who visit her quarterly. Math went to a considerable amount of effort to ensure that their program was running safely by adding a window for better ventilation and another door for use as a fire escape. She has also made changes to her ceiling and feels that she has “done everything” to ensure that her space is safe for young children. However, when her certificate expired after five years and she applied for registration again, Math was unable to register again.

“Now they are saying that I cannot register because of the zoning. Zoning has many protocols that we should follow. They say the problem is that I don’t have any parking outside, “explains Mathe.” I told them that the children who visit the center don’t take transport because they live nearby and their parents walk, to drop their children, but I still can’t register. “

Math struggled to keep Victory Educare going. Before Covid struck, 58 children attended their center and the fees of R450 per child covered running costs, food and salaries for them and four teachers. Now some parents can’t afford the fees because they lost their jobs, and at the same time, she says, the local government is asking her to build parking spaces. These, says Mathe, are not needed because “the children who visit the center do not take transport because they live nearby and the parents walk to drop their children”.

“I don’t have enough money now to pay three of my staff, so it’s just a teacher and me. I cook, clean, change diapers and wash dishes. ”The consequences of inadequate statutes are the loss of jobs, a reduced quality of childcare and an increase in the work of the women and men who look after and raise children in this country.

Signing up is too difficult

Local government can play a critical role in providing or hindering childcare and educational opportunities for young children. Registration as a day nursery, educare or preschool requires compliance with all structural, health and safety requirements of the community. Registration also gives access to the much-needed per child per day allowance which helps maintain many ECD programs. However, registration is difficult and requires the submission of approved blueprints. These blueprints are typically created by architects and are costly.

The operators of ECD centers in the suburbs often submitted construction plans to the city before construction began. However, this is not the case in informal and rural areas.

Ilifa Labantwana spoken to the director of an ECD center in Midrand in Gauteng, who said her biggest obstacle to registration was the blueprints required by the city planning department. “They are so expensive. I revised the plans twice, ”she says. “But they say they are not up to date. I paid R3,000 twice for the plans, but they are still not satisfied. “

These hurdles can be insurmountable for small educational institutions, and alternatives such as simple hand-drawn floor plans and site plans would go a long way in serving the needs of local government and the communities they represent.

Requirements for “Consent Use” at the local level are an additional obstacle. An ECD site is considered a business, and if it falls in a residential area, local governments usually require a reallocation.

Lizo Tom, who founded the Livuyo Center for Childhood Development and Care in Mamelodi, has been fighting for the registration of his center since 2018. Tom rents the premises from which the Luvuyo Center is operated and is excluded from registration until the property is rededicated. The required consent usage is an issue because reallocation of the premises is expensive for businesses.

“It’s going to cost over R40,000 and as an ECD we can’t afford that,” says Tom. “It’s also a very tedious process and they ask a lot of us.”

Communities that take seriously the challenges Tom and many others face can forego the zoning and title deed requirements that make registration impossible and instead implement simplified and affordable land use options (like neighborhood permits) that work quickly can be solved.

Another director from Ekurhuleni, Gauteng, interviewed by Ilifa Labantwana, managed to overcome the zoning hurdle only to face a significant bill for roads, rainwater, water and sanitation.

“They want me to pay R 37,082 for roads and rainwater and R 4,320 for water and sewage. I can’t understand why it is so high and why I have to adhere to these conditions. One guy said that I have to make a small donation because I use the road and it needs maintenance, but I explained that the kids mostly walk to school on foot. I fight the way it is so I don’t know where to get over R40,000 ”.

Day nurseries pay higher water and electricity prices than private households. Nevertheless, they serve the common good and are typically micro-businesses. Shouldn’t these additional fees be waived?

The bureaucracy is stifling these initiatives and there are simple solutions for local government to pioneer. Most of the suggestions outlined above are supported by the National Department of Social Development Vangasali program, but proper implementation still requires local government support.

Remove the red tape

There are signs that change is possible. In order to get the necessary approval, the ECD sector is trying to train prospective city councilors to ensure that early childhood development is prioritized in their upcoming tenure. A broad alliance Real reform for ECD, recently launched a “Make Local Government Work for ECD” campaign calling on budding councilors to cut red tape and introduce practices that actually support and expand access to early learning opportunities.

In community halls and ECD centers, ECD practitioners mobilize and organize meetings with prospective councilors, many of whom are unfamiliar with the challenges they face. Colleen Daniels-Horswell in the Western Cape recently attended a meet and greet of eight political parties. She explains: “I had to start over with most political parties and educate them about ECD.”

In the Ngqushwa community in the Eastern Cape, Mziwamadoda Badi of the Ubunye Foundation and several ECD directors met with candidates. He says the candidates have committed to developing an ECD policy in their area.

In Cape Town, Yumna Allie, Chair of the Grassy Park ECD Forum, and forum members met candidates who pledged to set up a committee to streamline the ECD registration process.

In Orange Farm, Gauteng, 161 people attended a meeting organized by Lerato Duma and Nozizwe Magagula of Real Reform, attended by eight of the candidates for election. The candidates at this meeting agreed to organize an ECD indaba after the elections to discuss solutions to the problems at hand.

These efforts show a remarkable collective effort to improve the development of the youngest members of society. We must now recognize the political parties and candidates that the children they meet on the electoral path are our future and that their new government as councilors can make a real difference.

Kayin Scholtz is Co-Impact Expansion Planning Lead with Ilifa Labantwana. Tess Peacock is the founder and director of the Equal Opportunities Collective. Both sit on the Real Reform for ECD steering committee.

The views expressed are not necessarily those of GroundUp.

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