Local government elections are almost upon us. Election slogans and manifestos have been drafted and in homes and on the streets across the country, voters are considering what promises they can trust. But for the youngest in the country, few electoral promises are made.
the silence on early childhood development in manifestos of all major political parties shows that the needs of our children are not listened to. Early childhood development professionals (ECDs), teachers, childminders, cooks, gardeners and principals, and most importantly, our youngest children, are the most affected by ignorance or political indifference. . Their stories matter.
Margaret Xhanyiwe Mathe opened her ECD center, Grow Victory Educare, in a converted garage attached to her RDP home in Kraaifontein, near Cape Town, in 2007. Since then, the number of children she cares for has increased every year. It has continued to develop its center in consultation with health inspectors, who visit it on a quarterly basis. Mathe has gone to great lengths to ensure that her show runs safely, adding a window for increased ventilation and another door for fire escape. He has also made changes to his roof and feels that he has “accomplished everything they wanted” to ensure that his space was safe for young children. However, when his certificate expired after five years and he reapplied for registration, Mathe was unable to re-register.
“Now they say I can’t register due to zoning. Zoning has many protocols that we must follow. They say the problem is that I don’t have parking outside, ”explains Mathe. “I have told them that the children who attend the center do not take transport because they live nearby and the parents walk to drop off their children, but I still cannot register.”
Mathe has been fighting to keep Victory Educare going. Before the Covid strike, 58 children attended her center, and rates of R450 per child covered running costs, food, and salaries for her and four teachers. Now, some parents cannot pay the fees because they have lost their jobs and, at the same time, he says, the local government requires him to develop parking spaces. These, says Mathe, are not necessary because “the children who attend the Center do not take transportation because they live nearby and the parents walk to drop off their children.”
“I don’t have enough money right now to pay three of my staff, so it’s just me and a teacher. I cook, clean, change diapers and wash dishes ”. The consequence of inappropriate statutes is job losses, reduced quality of childcare, and increased work for women and men who care for and educate children in this country.
Registration is too difficult
Local government can play a critical role in allowing or hindering care and education opportunities for young children. Registering as a daycare, educare or preschool requires meeting all municipal structural, health and safety requirements. Registration also allows access to much-needed allowance per child per day which helps maintain many ECD programs. However, registration is difficult and requires submission of approved construction plans. These construction plans are often produced by architects and are expensive.
Those who operate ECD centers in the suburbs often already have construction plans filed with the city before construction begins. But in informal and rural areas this is not the case.
Children’s inheritance speak to the director of an ECD center at Midrand in Gauteng, who said that her biggest barrier to registration was the construction plans required by the urban planning department. “They are so expensive. I’ve redone the plans twice, ”he says. “But they say they are not up to the task. I paid R3,000 twice for the plans, but they are still not satisfied. ”
These obstacles can be insurmountable for small educators, and alternatives such as simple hand-drawn floor and site plans would go a long way toward meeting the needs of both the local government and the communities they represent.
Requirements for “use by consent” at the local level are an additional hurdle. An ECD site is considered a business, and therefore if it is within a residential area, local governments generally require it to be rezoned.
Lizo Tom, who founded the Livuyo Center for Child Care and Development in Mamelodi, has been struggling to register his center since 2018. Tom is renting the facilities from which the Luvuyo Center is run and has been barred from registration until the property is re-zoned. The use of the required consent is a problem because it is costly to change the area from the premises to the company.
“It will cost more than 40,000 rand and as ECD we cannot afford that,” says Tom. “It is also a very tedious process and they ask us a lot.”
Municipalities that are serious about the challenges faced by Tom and many others can waive the zoning and title requirements that make registration impossible and instead implement simplified and affordable land use options ( like neighborhood consent) that can be resolved quickly.
Another Ekurhuleni director, Gauteng, interviewed by Ilifa Labantwana managed to overcome the zoning hurdle only to be slapped with a major bill for roads, stormwater, and water and sanitation.
“They want me to pay R37,082 for roads and stormwater, as well as R4,320 for water and sanitation. I cannot understand why it is so high and even why I must meet these conditions. One boy said that I have to pay a small donation because I am using the road and it needs maintenance, but I explained that most of the children walk to school. I’m struggling the way I am, so I don’t know where I’m going to get more than R40,000. ”
Nurseries pay higher water and electricity rates than private households. However, they serve the public good and are often micro-businesses. Surely these additional fees should be waived?
The bureaucracy is stifling these initiatives and there are easy solutions for local government to pioneer. Most of the suggestions described above are endorsed by the National Department of Social Development. Vangasali Program, but proper implementation still requires the support of the local government.
There are signs that change is possible. To gain the necessary buy-in, the ECD industry is trying to educate prospective counselors to ensure that early childhood development is prioritized in their next term. A broad alliance, Royal reform for DPI, recently launched a “Make Local Government Work for ECD” campaign calling on prospective councilors to cut red tape and put in place practices that truly support and expand access to early learning opportunities.
In community classrooms and ECD centers, ECD practitioners are mobilizing and organizing meetings with prospective counselors, many of whom are unfamiliar with the challenges they face. Colleen Daniels-Horswell in the Western Cape recently attended a “meet and greet” from eight political parties. She explains: “I had to start all over with most of the political parties and educate them about ECD.”
In the local Ngqushwa municipality in the Eastern Cape, Mziwamadoda Badi of the Ubunye Foundation, and several ECD directors met with candidates. It says the candidates committed to developing an early childhood development policy for their area.
In Cape Town, Yumna Allie, Chair of the Grassy Park ECD Forum, and forum members met with candidates who pledged to establish a committee to streamline the ECD registration process.
At Orange Farm, Gauteng, 161 people attended a meeting organized by Lerato Duma and Nozizwe Magagula of Real Reform with the attendance of eight of the election candidates. The candidates at that meeting agreed to organize an ECD inquiry after the elections to discuss solutions to the problems faced.
These efforts demonstrate a remarkable collective effort to enhance the development of the youngest members of society. Now we need political parties and candidates to realize that the children they meet on the electoral route are our future and that, as councilors, your new administration can make a real difference.
This article was published on GroundUp here. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of GroundUp.