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Centres readied for little ones’ return

Written by: Silusapho Nyanda

Any early childhood development facility that intends to reopen when the green light is given needs to complete a reopening self-assessment form.

Although an official date for the reopening of early childhood development (ECD) centres is yet to be announced, the Department of Social Development (DSD) has outlined reopening guidelines.  Before ECD centres can reopen, they must make sure that they have completed a self-assessment test designed by the DSD.  

“An ECD centre or partial-care facility that intends to reopen for the duration of the state of disaster needs to complete a pre-opening self-assessment form that must be submitted online or in paper at the nearest office of the DSD,” says DSD Acting Director General Linton Mchunu.

The form is to ensure that the centres follow the measures put in place to stop the spread of the virus. Once the ECD centres fill in and submit the form, the department’s officials are allowed to make unannounced on-site assessments.  

Mchunu says: “The DSD may visit an ECD programme or partial-care facility that intends to reopen for an onsite assessment to check that it complies with the health, safety and social distancing measures.”  

Before the children return

Over two million children attend ECD centres. Before the children return, a centre must disinfect its premises, all stationery, toys and other materials. This must thereafter be done on a daily basis. The DSD also requires that all ECD centres have a space for people to wash their hands when entering the premises. Another requirement is that there must be a screening process at all ECD centre entrances, during which people wishing to enter must answer a number of questions that relate to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). To protect children from the spread of COVID-19, ECD centres must have basic personal protective equipment.

The DSD requires that every ECD centre has: masks for every adult at the centre, additional masks or visors for children, a temperature gun, a sanitiser for cleaning hands, stationery and surface areas, social distance markings, rubber gloves for cleaning and the disposal of waste materials and cleaning cloths.  

Training for staff

In order to ensure that children enrolled at ECD centres are safe, the DSD insists that all staff must be given training on the new measures that are to be implemented to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“It is the responsibility of the management or body responsible for the employment of staff at the ECD centre or partial-care facility to ensure that staff meet the minimum safety and social distancing measures before they return to work,” says Minister Mchunu.

The training of staff can be done through an in-service training or peer-to-peer training programme. The department says the training must provide staff with opportunities to develop and share ideas that will make the reopening of an ECD centre or partial-care facility practical and safe for them and the learners. When filling in the self-assessment forms, ECD centre owners or managers will have to provide information about the centre.  The information will include: contact details and the physical address of the ECD centre, and the type of services offered.

The registration status of the centre

If a centre is not registered, it will be given six months to do so as a condition of reopening. ECD centres must also state whether they get funding from the DSD or not. The age groups of the children in the care of an ECD centre is also required. 

For more information on how to get the self-assessment form, visit your nearest DSD office or call the department at 012 312 7727.