I am appealing to all organisations and individuals offering direct services  in the ECD sector to open your doors to the fieldworkers who are conducting the ECD Census 2021. Your participation directly influences ECD decisions for this and the next generation of young children in the country. You only need to contribute one hour of your time to help our sector close the information gap that currently exists in the ECD sector.

The provision of early childhood development (ECD) services is a public good. This assertion is based on the recognition that these services not only contribute to the development and outcomes of the child, but also to the growth and evolution of our society and our country’s future workforce, in the medium and long-term. There is substantial evidence to show that investment in ECD results in stronger educational outcomes and increased productivity in later life.

As a sector, we must offer parents and caregivers access to a range of programmes that provide high-quality play-based learning opportunities. We need to support efforts aimed at assisting our practitioners that work on creating positive outcomes for children in the early years. Children must be happy, well-rounded individuals and better prepared for the future with skills that will help them interact with the world of tomorrow.  All this can be cultivated by a well-supported sector that contributes to healthy development, problem-solving and critical thinking, creativity, as well as the development of personal characteristics like empathy and collaboration.

We, as ECD practitioners, are concerned about the millions of children who do not have access to any form of ECD programmes. We can play our part in solving this problem by contributing our information to the current data collection exercise taking place through the ECD Census 2021.

Using the data gathered by the fieldworkers completing the national survey, the Department of Basic Education will have a better understanding of the location, availability, offering, registration status and infrastructure needs of programmes, the number of children being served and qualifications of the practitioners.  The more comprehensive the data is, the more information is available to craft and cost various scenarios that will enable informed decisions on how the limited available resources should be allocated.  ECD programmes will be asked for their consent when participating in the ECD Census and the information collected will be treated confidentially according to the provisions of POPIA.

As early childhood development programmes and practitioners we have been offered the opportunity to be part of the first National ECD census. This is a game changer for our sector and the first step in making sure that the work that we do is recognised. It is critical that we create an accurate picture of the ECD services so that future planning can be done more effectively. The spectrum of services provided by the ECD sector spans a wide range of qualifications and skills with practitioners providing services in ECD centers, playgroups, home visiting, toy library and parenting programmes. The training of ECD practitioners needs to be diversified to enable them to be specialists in their respective programmes. Unqualified practitioners should be given the opportunity to work towards a qualification through a micro-credentialing system. Mentoring and support post-training to ensure adequate implementation and continued improvement of early learning programmes must be provided.

As in the rest of the world, funding to support ECD service providers is a real challenge. As a sector, we must collaborate to find innovative solutions to address the needs of the children.  Funding should be based on how programmes have improved the outcome for the next generation. By including existing resources and training providers in the assessment of the sector and plans for the future, we can contribute to drafting a proposal that can be costed to close the minimum qualifications gap and ensure sustainability for the whole sector. We cannot be part of the solution if we do not contribute information to the ECD census which will help assess the situation and plan for the future.


Source: http://Daily Maverick

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