Children will benefit after Sona speech, but it will take time

Photo is for illustrative purposes only. Children of the Zwavelpoort community benefit from Fungwini Early Childhood Development Centre’s programme, which recently received a corporate social investment donation from Medipost Holdings. Picture: Supplied

There is still a considerable amount of work to be done before the president’s ECD plan can be properly implemented, experts say.

Although praise continues to pour in from early childhood development (ECD) communities after President Cyril Ramaphosa said all children would be subjected to two years of compulsory ECD before Grade 1, they say it may take a while to be implemented properly.

During his State of the Nation (Sona) address on Thursday, Ramaphosa announced that priority would be given to providing a compulsory two-year early ECD programme, with the intention of increasing literacy levels among primary school pupils.

The president said “with over 700 000 children accessing early childhood education in the last financial year, we have established a firm foundation for a comprehensive ECD programme that is an integral part of the education system.

“This year, we will migrate responsibility for ECD centres from social development to basic education, and proceed with the process towards two years of compulsory ECD for all children before they enter Grade 1.”

Sharing in the excitement of the news, Early Care Foundation director Deirdre Caulwell said her organisation was pleased about the encouraging announcement, but that there was still a considerable amount of work to be done before it could be properly implemented.

Cotlands chief executive Dr Monica Stach echoed Caulwell’s sentiments and said “Cotlands fully supports this initiative. [However,] we think it will take at least three years for this process to start.

“It is critical to plan this move in stages that are manageable, as opposed to do it all at once.

“Also, they should involve stakeholders such as lead ECD organisations and associations such as Cotlands and NECDA to think through the process alongside them.

“In short, thorough planning and communication of the process to both the officials involved and civil society partners is critical. As a country, we should rally around this and where possible support this transition phase.”

Equal Education’s senior researcher Rene McFarlane said: “Equal Education has repeatedly emphasised the importance of early learning and foundation phase education in determining learners’ trajectory through the education system. It is absolutely crucial that good foundations are laid in the early years of learning.

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