The Vangasali campaign seeks to find and get the details of all early childhood development (ECD) facilities in South Africa, registered or not. This is so that these facilities, so essential to pre-schoolers' physical and mental development, can be properly supported, especially during the national lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19.
As outlined in the National Integrated Early Childhood Development Policy (2015), it is the public provisioning responsibility of Government to develop a publicly funded and rights-based national integrated early childhood development system which ensures universal availability of early childhood development services that secure young children’s rights and provides a continuum of quality care, early learning and protection. The provision of Early Childhood Development (ECD) services is integral as it helps to create the conditions in which the future life prospects of a child is not hindered by the income poverty of their parents. Thus by providing access to quality ECD services and investing in young children, it serves as a means of levelling the playing field for children born into poor families, and it can help reduce social disadvantage as well as provide a better start at school.
While the Department of Social Development has some data regarding the scale of ECD provisioning in the country, this covers mostly registered and conditionally registered sites; playgroups as well as some unregistered centres. There are however thousands of unregistered ECD services and non-centre based ECD services, including mobile services that government does not have data on because they are unaware of where these centres operate from. All these services form an integral backbone of ECD service delivery in the country. With respect to unregistered ECD services, government recognises the role that it needs to play in assisting these services to meet registration requirements stemming from the nature of ECD provisioning being that of a community based driven service and a public-private partnership.
The Covid-19 crisis elevated the importance of registration with respect to unregistered services in particular as they are unable to access government’s relief measures, owing to falling outside any kind of registration system. Not being able to access the various kinds of support being offered to small businesses and citizens to cushion the loss of income that has accompanied the lockdown measures, has placed severe financial strain on these unregistered services. So while the need to get better and more comprehensive data has been longstanding, the COVID-19 crises has exacerbated the situation and served to further highlight the need to collect data on unregistered sites with a view to work towards bringing them within the fold of the registration system.
Moreover, in the wake of the pandemic, there is a need to adequately plan for the safe reopening of ECD sites. To help enable this to transpire, data is needed regarding the scale and spread of ECD services in order to facilitate this reopening. The data generated from this campaign will thus also feed into this planning process so as to realise this.
Vangasali is a Xitsonga word meaning No One Left Behind, which is what this campaign is trying to do by finding every ECD service as this in the long term will help enable the realisation of quality ECD service provision to children. This notion of not leaving anyone behind is further emphasised by the tagline of Every Child Counts.
How will data be collected?
- Collecting and collating databases of ECD NGOs, ECD forums and other stakeholders: One chief way in which data will be collected will be through reaching out to existing ECD NGOs, ECD Forums and other stakeholders who have data related to ECD services such as location information and contact details. ECD NGOs have this information owing to their interface with ECD services through training or nutrition provision initiatives amongst other things, while ECD Forums have information on ECD services as their membership comprises of these service providers. Other stakeholders such as Environmental Health Practitioners (EHPs) and Community Safety Forums may also have information on ECD services owing to their interaction with them.
- WhatsApp line: There are ECD services that are not reached by ECD NGOs and who are also not part of any ECD Forum or association. To ensure that everyone is able to participate in the campaign, WhatsApp will be used as a medium for ECD service providers to submit their information. This WhatsApp line is a GovChat managed platform.
This is not a standalone campaign but rather one that fits into a more comprehensive project. As such it is one phase in a much bigger project, with the various phases outlined below:
Horizon 1: Find and count
The aim of this phase is to find and count all ECD services, which the campaign is geared towards achieving. This will enable government to understand the coverage of children receiving ECD services and will inform a gap analysis in terms of spatial and population provisioning. Parallel to this process, the Department will use this information to feed into their planning for the reopening of sites. The data from Horizon 1 can also be used by local municipalities, as this data and information sharing can assist them in having an evidence based approach in their planning and budgeting processes. While the other horizons do not directly relate to all ECD services, and is more focused on ECD centres, it is integral that all services are included in Horizon 1 so that there is an understanding regarding the spread and coverage of all services.
Horizon 2: Categorise
With many ECD centres being unable to comply with norms and standards as stipulated in the Children’s Act No 38 of 2005 and with Local Government requirements (Environmental Health, By-laws and land use issues amongst others ) being a significant barrier to registration, the department recognises that a progressive approach to registration is required in the spirit of leaving no one behind. The aim of Horizon 2 is to categorise these services according to the DSD registration framework of bronze, silver and gold. The bronze and silver categorisation will facilitate conditional registration with DSD which means that the ECD centres meet some basic norms and standards while gold categorisation means that the ECD centres meet all the norms and standards. The purpose of this categorisation is to use this data to help inform the design of a pre-registration support package model so as to significantly increase registration rates and to assist those centres that are conditionally registered to move to full registration.
Horizon 3: Intervention
This phase is aimed at providing support packages to sites in order to progressively register them within the available resources. Furthermore, it is aimed at monitoring sites and providing ongoing support (provision of a subsidy, training etc) to ensure the delivery of quality ECD services. It is important to note that the registration of sites is a process that requires a collaborative approach between the Department and Local Government where the environment health practitioners are a key resource to work with social workers to achieve this end.