Early Childhood Development (ECD) is part of the core work of the Foundation's Dialogue & Advocacy programme, which forms part of a much larger ecosystem working towards advancing ECD in South Africa. We seek to reduce of barriers to registration for ECD services and to enhance the delivery of ECD services at a local government level. The barriers to registration for particularly ECD centres have a genesis in apartheid planning and a history of racialised inequality. These barriers exclude many ECD services from receiving much needed state support. Moreover, to realise universal access to ECD services, the participation of every sphere of government is paramount and understanding what role local government can play in this regard helps to achieve the broader goal of increased access.
The intersection of these two dimensions gave rise to the Vangasali campaign. At the heart of the Vangasali campaign is the notion that no one should be left behind. Not only does this hold true for children but also the ECD services themselves who develop and care for these children. ECD services are primarily run by black women whose contribution as social entrepreneurs is often overlooked, despite being an important source of employment in their communities and whose contributions are imperative to the social and economic functioning of South Africa.
Vangasali seeks to massively increase the registration of ECD services, and is a project that is spearheaded by the Department of Social Development and supported by the Foundation, with the Department of Basic Education and non-governmental organisation Impande SA also being project partners. The Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, the Department of Health as well as the South African Local Government Association have also played a supportive role in the roll-out of the campaign. The coming together of these different departments and stakeholders in the development and implementation of the Vangasali campaign is indicative of the gains that can be made through strong Departmental leadership and multi-stakeholder engagement.
The Vangasali campaign was conceptualised towards the end of 2019 for roll-out in 2020. Whilst Covid-19 initially stalled the roll-out of the campaign, it later served to accelerate its implementation as the need for the campaign in the context of a pandemic was evident. More specifically, having a limited database of ECD services in the country hindered response planning, with many of these services falling ‘outside’ the government system of registration.
The Vangasali campaign has three phases. Phase one sought to find all ECD services in the country. It was completed in September and resulted in the compilation of a database of over 45 000 ECD services in the country - the majority of which are unregistered ECD centres. The success of this phase would not have been possible without the support of the numerous organisations and networks in the ECD sector who participated.
Phase Two of the campaign, which is currently underway, is a "massification" drive, which is key towards the realisation of universal access of ECD services. Phase Two involves standardising and simplifying the process of ECD Registration nationally, and entails the following components:
- Registration Jamborees as the entry point where relevant government officials can brief ECD services on requirements, and distribute application packs which contain all the forms that need to be completed by ECD services and is available in seven languages.
- Assessments by DSD officials using the ECD Registration Framework which standardises conditional registration for ECD services.
- The development of an online Registration Management Tool which tracks ECD registration nationally, which will be for internal government use
The Foundation is supporting the Department of Social Development in rolling out orientation sessions for officials across all Districts and Metros to realise the above elements. At the time of writing this, 40% of districts and metros had been orientated and the orientation is set for completion by February 2021.
Following the completion of Phase Two, Phase Three will seek to provide support to unregistered services to develop their capacity to effectively provide safe, nurturing and stimulating environments for the children they cater for. This phase will seek to leverage resources from the public, private as well as civil society stakeholders in order to realise this.
ECD services provide a social good to the community, and operators of these services are often motivated to provide these services not out of financial expediency but rather out of love and compassion for the safety, wellbeing and future of the children in their communities. Having had regular engagements with ECD forums since late 2018 through our dialogue convenings, we have been moved by their resilience and commitment and see them as a key constituency in our work.
Our ongoing involvement and efforts in the Vangasali campaign is dedicated towards helping these ECD services and those who work in these services, as we consider them unsung heroes that need to be both celebrated and supported.