The COVID-19 pandemic caught the country, and the world, off guard and had a major impact on everyone, including non-profit early childhood development (ECD) programmes. The ECD sector is facing an abrupt loss of income and the livelihoods of ECD practitioners with skills, knowledge and experience in early learning is seriously under threat. This will also impact on young children’s continued access to quality early learning and development opportunities and programmes as they start to re-open.
According to Leonard Saul, CEO of the South African Congress for Early Childhood Development: “ECD centres closed on March 27, 2020, due to a pronouncement by the Department of Social Development, leaving approximately 175 000 ECD practitioners without a daily income. Parents did not pay monthly fees because their children were at home, resulting in no income to the ECD centre which pays the salaries of the ECD practitioners. To date, very few ECD centres have reopened due to a lack of resources to provide PPEs, and also because parents are not sending children to attend programmes. Many ECD centres closed down leaving ECD practitioners without an income and, in some centres which reopened, ECD practitioners were retrenched due to a low income.”
Investments in ECD programmes have the potential to generate benefits for children across their lifespan, their caregivers and for the broader society*. ECD programmes which meaningfully improve children’s early learning experiences can lead to better cognitive and emotional development over their life course. These improvements can lead to long-term economic growth, responsible citizenship, and the effective parenting of future generations,” (according to the South African Child Gauge 2013, University of Cape Town).
During the early years (birth to six years) quality early learning and development opportunities lay the foundations to prepare young children for more formal education (starting at Grade 1) and to become life-long learners. The harsh reality is that the sector is losing well qualified and experienced ECD practitioners, which will disadvantage young children if there isn’t enough funding and resources for non-profit ECD programmes across the country.
The ECD-Support-Fund was created by people from both public and private sectors to provide bridging financial aid with which to support registered non-profit ECD programmes and to keep them from closing due to loss of experienced staff.
According to Ruby Motaung, director of Training and Resource in Early Education (TREE): “During this most challenging time in the recent history of our nation, it is paramount that the strength of NGO sector in ECD as a voice of the communities, be combined with that of all relevant government, other stakeholders and the public, to ensure that our youngest citizens continue to have access to quality early learning opportunities now, and for years to come.”
We’re encouraging corporates, consumers, donors, philanthropists and other organisations to support the ECD-Support-Fund to ensure that those providing ECD programmes do not close nor retrench experienced staff. This fund will assist in ensuring that our young children continue to receive much needed early learning opportunities that will not only ensure that they have a good start in life during their early years, but to be able to contribute to the long-term prosperity of our nation. In this instance we are reminded of the words of Seattle pediatrician Dimitri Christakis: ‘When you change the beginning of the story, you change the whole story.’ ”
Queen Mgobhozi, the chairperson of the ECD-Support-Fund’s Independent Oversight Committee, reveals the goals of this initiative: “Our initial target for fundraising is R5 000 000. With this amount, we will impact upon the lives of around 14 000 children in 547 ECD programmes, benefitting a total of 1 368 ECD practitioners and educators. This will be done through the provision of two-month support of 50% of the national minimum wage as a norm. The cost of inaction is high and has a long-term impact. For every qualified ECD practitioner/educator we lose, it will take at least three years to recover, meaning that approximately 41 000 young children, conservatively calculated, will be deprived of quality early learning and development opportunities.”
How you can support the fund:
You can help the ECD-Support-Fund, as every contribution will help! And no contribution is ever too small:
1 Make the decision to contribute;
2 Decide how much you can contribute (once off or a number of times);
3 Pay it into the bank account of the ECD-Support-Fund and send an email with proof of payment; and
4 Tell your friends and family, and spread the word on social media using #ECDSUPPORTFUND.
You can make a difference and help to save the country’s investment in human capital by:
Contributing directly into the ECD-Support-Fund; and
Requesting your employees to collect and make a contribution to the ECD-Support-Fund as an internal CSI initiative
Donors and philanthropic organisations
Your organisation can make a contribution to the fund in aid of ECD programmes by contributing directly into the ECD-Support-Fund.
Find out more by visiting: https://www.ecdalliance.org/
Also, see #ECDSUPPORTFUND
*Tax exemption certificates in the form of Section 18A letters will be provided by NECDA in return for donations received.