Early Childhood Development (ECD) describes the learning and developmental stages from birth to the year before children enter formal schooling. During this time, the learning and development rate of progress achieved by children is unmatched by any other phase of life.
ECD also serves as income for the practitioners and caregivers. The service provided to the community by practitioners and caregivers is often given out of love and compassion for the safety, wellbeing and future of the children in the community.
ECD centres that pass the means test are entitled to a subsidy of R15 per child, per month, from the government. However, to qualify for a subsidy, ECD centres need to register with the Department of Social Development. To register, centres need to meet the Norms and Standards contemplated in section 79 of the Children’s Act. These Norms and Standards refer to a safe environment, proper care of sick children, space and ventilation, safe drinking water and the like. Practitioners do not contest the substantive aspects of the Norms and Standards, however, to become certified as having met the Norms and Standards, centres must produce a series of documents, notably an original copy of the approved building plans and a health certificate.
Here is where the difficulty lies: to obtain an original copy of the approved building plans and the health certificate, centres must be in possession of a title deed. Many disadvantaged ECD centres in rural areas, in informal settlements and unclaimed land, those that need the state subsidy the most, are not the owners of the land on which they operate from, or otherwise do not have access to a title deed. Without a title deed, they cannot access the much-needed subsidy to provide more nutritious meals, a safer environment and educational materials to young children.
The main issues related to the discrimination regarding barriers to registration are the livelihoods of practitioners, the health and safety of the children, the quality of the education, poverty and inequality.