On a monthly basis, the Nelson Mandela Foundation convenes a meeting with early childhood development (ECD) forums in Gauteng. This is born out of our commitment to elevating grassroots and community voices and ensuring that the lives of people who are affected by policy should be included in discussions that affect their lives – nothing about them, without them.
Fourteen forums attended our May meeting, from areas such as Katlehong, Diepsloot, Alexandra, Greenvillage and Orange Farm, and included provincial members of the South African Congress for ECD. At this meeting, we reflected on the dialogue that was held at the Foundation in Johannesburg on 18 April, titled “Where does pre-Grade R belong?”
This dialogue was organised by the Foundation arising from President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement that there will be a migration of responsibility for ECD centres from the Department of Social Development to the Department of Basic Education, in addition to two years of compulsory ECD for all children before they enter Grade 1. The dialogue brought together ECD experts, ECD practitioners, statisticians, government officials, First Lady Dr Tshepo Motsepe, and members of civil society, who engaged with this overarching question.
Presentations at the dialogue included an overview of the proposed function shift by Marie-Louise Samuels (Director: ECD at the Department of Basic Education); an overview of the consultation process by Duncan Hindle (National Education Collaboration Trust); and perspectives from ECD practitioners. Jeanette Ratlabjana (Diepsloot ECD Forum), Kgomotso Motheelane (Alexandra Combined ECD Forum) and Priscilla Mpofu (SA Congress for ECD) gave a joint presentation in which they described the challenges practitioners have identified in moving pre-Grade R education to public schools.
At the May meeting, Meredith Gillmer and Terry Harris of Discovery Vitality also engaged with practitioners regarding the collaboration between the Nelson Mandela Foundation and Vitality’s HealthyFood Studio to train 400 ECD practitioners to prepare affordable nutritional meals for the children in their care, and how to draw on research conducted by Vitality to provide awareness about malnutrition and how to curb it. The trainee practitioners will be picked largely from townships and informal settlement areas in Gauteng and the North West.
Lastly, a presentation was made by Lebogang Montjane, Independent Schools Association of South Africa Executive Director, on what constitutes an independent school. This was relevant owing to the Department of Basic Education wanting to shift the provisioning of Grade R from ECD centres to public and independent schools by 2030.