Nelson Mandela Foundation

Early Childhood Development (ECD)

Early Childhood Development (ECD) was identified as a focus area through our involvement in the Mandela Initiative. The Mandela Initiative was a multi-stakeholder initiative which investigated key strategies to overcome the country’s development challenges.

In the final convening held in Cape Town at the beginning of 2018, the need to focus on ECD emerged strongly in discussions. Arising from this, the ways in which it surfaced in discussions flagged to the Foundation that it was an area worth pursuing.

The report went on to highlight how the lack of ECD provisioning is a major determinant of intergenerational poverty yet was still cast as a "soft" issue rather than treated as urgent and fundamental to achieving a just and equitable society. Owing to young children being a silent and mostly invisible constituency who do not have a political voice and who cannot vote or protest, there is a need to be proactive and advance policy that is in their interest. When the Mandela Initiative concluded at the beginning of 2018, the Nelson Mandela Foundation took forward the work by embracing ECD as a focus area.

Phase 1 2 3 outlined
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One of the flagship projects run by the Foundation, Vangasali is a project in partnership with the Department of Basic Education. Vangasali is a Xitsonga phrase meaning No One Left Behind, which is what the Vangasali campaign is trying to achieve.

Ecd Workshop

Vangasali Phase 1

In May 2020, Phase 1 of the Vangasali campaign was launched that was aimed at finding every Early Childhood Development (ECD) service in South Africa. During Phase 1 of the campaign, over 45 000 ECD services were identified – most of whom are unregistered. Phases 2 and 3 of Vangasali are outlined below.

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Vangasali Phase 2

According to the Department of Basic Education’s (DBE) ECD census 2021, 60% of ECD programmes are in urban areas, and 40% are in rural areas. Only 40% of all programmes are registered, with many of these sites either not aware of registration requirements, unable to register or have never applied for registration. The reality is that many of these programmes operate in informal settlements, townships and on unproclaimed land – these are where children from poor households are accessing these programmes. The inability of these programmes to register means they are not part of the government’s system of support and are unable to access the R17 per child per day subsidy.

To help realise an increase in programme registration, the Foundation partnered with the government on the Vangasali campaign aimed at leaving no child behind. While Vangasali was initially a partnership with the Department of Social Development (DSD), with the recent ECD function shift it is now the Department of Basic Education (DBE) which is spearheading this.

Phase 2 includes implementing the associated Vangasali registration toolkits and methods, which create a developmental pathway for the registration of all types of ECD services:

  • The ECD registration framework allows for conditional registration of ECD services that meet Bronze or Silver level of compliance and full registration for those achieving Gold level of compliance. It allows programmes to register conditionally, which gives them the opportunity for development towards full registration.
  • Jamborees are used as a platform where ECD programmes are called to an information session and guided on how to do their registration and documents to be attached to the registration form.
  • Standard registration packs which are distributed at Jamborees
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Vangasali Phase 3

It is expected that some services in the poorest communities will fail Bronze level due to lack of basic equipment or infrastructure challenges. Thus, while we hope that many ECD services will achieve at least Bronze registration, we know that not all will be able to do so and may require further assistance in order to meet this level of compliance. Phase 3 of Vangasali campaign is aimed at giving support to these sites, who in the absence of assistance will be unable to meet Bronze level. As part of Phase 3 of Vangasali, the Nelson Mandela Foundation received funding to upgrade and complete new builds for 104 ECD centres nationally, which commenced in 2022.

The Vangasali campaign seeks to find 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.

Vangasali campaign launch: 2 June 2020