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ECD centres essential for the growth of children

Written by Jauhara Khan

South Africa has more than eight million children under the age of six. Children in this age group are at a crucial stage in their development and the care they receive at this point will help them to become healthy, happy and productive members of society.

The provision of Early Childhood Development (ECD) programmes in South Africa is then vital to their growth and the future of the country.

The National Development Agency’s (NDA) ECD Specialist Thando Ngqase said children needed to be stimulated from a young age for them to reach their potential.

“Ninety percent of brain development occurs before the age of five. Ten percent of brain development occurs beyond the age of five years. ECD centres or ECD programmes are essential in ensuring that children develop holistically – physically, emotionally and psychologically,” she said.

The NDA, an agency of government under the Department of Social Development (DSD), offers assistance, training and funding to those who want to open and register ECD centres in their communities.

There are currently 26 645 registered ECD centres in the country, with 827 338 children accessing ECD services. Of these, more than 500 000 have been subsided by government to attend these facilities. KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Limpopo have the highest number of children in South Africa, said Ngqase.

Many factors had to be taken into consideration before anyone could open an ECD facility, Ngqase advised.

A potential ECD practitioner needs to have a qualification in the field, or have previously worked with young children.

“The Children’s Act 38 of 2005 states that a person who wants to run an ECD programme has to have at least three years’ experience in ECD, or an ECD National Qualifications Framework (NQF) qualification on levels 1, 4, 5 or 6,” she said.

The practitioner must also be able to teach children according to the ECD educational standards upheld by the Department of Basic Education.

“The National Curriculum Framework guides the development, implementation, continuous assessment and evaluation of the programmes run in ECD centres,” said Ngqase.

Good nutrition also forms part of a child’s development, and many ECD centres provide a daily meal. Ngqase said that the Department of Health had penned Guidelines on Nutrition in ECD to help practitioners understand what to feed children, draw up seasonal menus and recipes, and prepare and buy certain quantities of food per child.

Ngqase said ECD centres could access funding from the Department of Social Development in the form of subsidies, with the average subsidy per child being R15 a day. However, it was difficult to say how much money a potential ECD practitioner would need to set up a facility.

She said the costs related to  setting up an ECD depends on the type of structure where the centre will be set up.   

For more information on registering an ECD centre contact:

  • The National Development Agency  on 011 018 5500
  • Any provincial or regional office of the Department of Social Development
  • Visit the Department of Social Development website: http://www.dsd.gov.za