Minister of Social Development, Ms Bathabile Dlamini
All Ministers present
Premier of the Eastern Cape, Ms Noxolo Kivit
Leadership from Municipalities
Leadership of our social partners
Ladies and gentlemen
It is a great honor for me to participate in this important conference under a theme that resonates with Government's role to construct a democratic developmental state: "Building future leaders through early childhood development". This conference also coincides with birthday of the first non-racial, non-sexist national ECD organization which was born exactly 18 years ago in this province under the theme of "Putting young children first in the reconstruction of our nation". This organization is the South African Congress for Early Childhood Development (SACECD). The birth of (SACECD) was a product of a four consultation process within the sector.
It is therefore appropriate to reflect on where we come from as the nation in terms of early childhood development. It is important to recall that as early as 1939, there were initiatives to address challenges in educare as the sector was known then. Here I am refereeing to organisations such as South African Association for Early Childhood Educare (SAAECE), established in 1939. Although it was founded on apartheid architecture, it advocated amongst other things for early childhood education standards and training. Other Resource and Training Organisations (RTOs) such as Athlone Early Learning Centre, Early Learning Resource Unit, Grassroots (all Cape Town based) and Border Early Learning Centre (East London based) were established between 1972 and 1979. As the order of the day dictated, all these organizations were unfortunately under the leadership of white managers.
Chairperson, as highlighted in the African National Congress Policy Framework for Education and Training, ECD was placed within the education desk and I was mandated to lead transformation in this sector. One of the tasks we were faced with was to look amongst other things an appropriate policy for early childhood development which was later consolidated through the National Education Policy Investigation (NEPI) as well as setting up an appropriate democratic, united and non-racial organization that would engage the new government in educare matters.
This mandate was achieved through the assistance of the then National Education Co-coordinating Committee (NECC) to set up the National Interim Working Committee in Early Childhood Development (NIWC) in 1990. NIWC successfully championed the process of launching a united nationally representative ECD movement based on the principles of non-racism, non-sexism and democracy within a unitary South Africa in a conference that was held on 23-25 March 1994 just a month before the first national democratic elections in South Africa.
Transformation in ECD
Chairperson, the National Planning Commission has highlighted in the social vision 2030 that "Different kinds of interventions are required for different age groups. Capacity needs to be developed to provide relevant developmental activities to the total projected 4 million children in the 0 - 3 age cohort and nearly 2 million children in the 4-5 age group by 2030. Capacity needs to be developed to effectively monitor and regulate the sector as well."
Department of Public Service and Administration therefore views ECD as an important building block towards the achievement of Millennium Development Goals because it cuts across all eight of them. It is therefore absolutely important to thank all ECD activists who continuously and tirelessly advocated for ECD to be moved from the margin to the centre of government planning processes.
We must also at the same time appreciate the responsiveness of the ANC led government to the will of the people as guided by the Freedom Charter.
The first response from the government was in 1995 when White Paper on Education and Training pronounced that "the care and development of young children must be the foundation of social relations and the starting point of human resource development strategies from community to national levels". This commitment laid an important foundation for ECD policy development processes in the country. As you know, these processes include amongst others, inclusion of ECD in Welfare White Paper, ECD white Paper 5, Social Assistance Act and Children's Act.
To intensify the campaign of transforming South Africa into a united, just, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous society, government took a very important step in 2005 to include ECD in the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) with specific emphasis on providing training, work experience and temporary income especially to women and youth. That initiative placed ECD as one of government apex priorities where government committed to massively speed up the implementation of ECD programme across the country.
Access to quality ECD services
In 2005, government further took decision to introduce the "e-rate determination" through which a 50% discount is provided to public schools and other education and training institutions. It is therefore important to explore the possibility of expanding this benefit to community ECD sites especially those who are not funded by government because ICT is a critical catalyst towards achieving developmental state aspirations. This facility makes information available to ECD practitioners and management structures in community-based ECD services.
Chairperson, the Department of Public Service and Administration as guided by amongst other legal frameworks such as the South African Constitution, public service regulations and Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) is charged with the responsibility to foster good governance and sound administration in the public service. DPSA like any other department is compelled to implement this directive. The central objective of 2009-2014 MTSF is to set the country on a higher and sustainable growth trajectory by the end of 2014 with an expanded and more diversified economic base, with unemployment and poverty being halved and with greater equity and social cohesion. It is in this light that the Strategic Priority 10 of building a developmental state including improvement of public services and strengthening democratic institutions is making it compulsory for all government departments that provide public services to clearly specify the standard of service citizens should expect including quality of services and the mechanisms of redress should those standards not be met. This calls for appropriate standards in ECD programmes particularly those who are in government fold.
In order to ensure that this is happening, DPSA heeded President Zuma's call that the current administration will know where people live and respond faster to their needs by piloting the localized service delivery improvement forums where ECD issues are raised and dealt with.
To intensify access to quality government services in the context of Batho Pele principles, Community Development Workers Programme was created by Cabinet in 2003 as the new echelon of multi-skilled public servants, whose role is to ensure that government goes to the people to offer services where they live, especially for poor people in urban and rural areas. DPSA was mandated to provide support in training and the development of toolkits for CDWs as well as promoting inter-sectoral collaboration as an additional access strategy to government services.
In the context of ECD, Community Development Workers have amongst other responsibilities to ensure that government reaches children who are outside ECD net by facilitating access to amongst other services immunization, administration of ARVs, application of birth certificates and registration of ECD programmes particularly in the rural areas. We currently have 3 395 Community Development Workers in the country and they are deployed in 2 959 wards (this means some wards have more than one CDW). Government is in a process of allocating CDWs in the remaining 950 Wards.
To further improve public access to government services, DPSA is leading connectivity in Thusong Service Centres. There are currently 149 of Thusong Centres throughout the country where ECD practitioners can access government services such as registration of birth certificates, application for grants and internet services.
Outcome 12 of which DPSA is coordinating, directs that each government service point must have amongst other things this service delivery improvement plan, service standards and service charter. It is therefore important that departments of Education and Social development assist ECD sites to comply with this directive as well.
As the contribution towards increasing productivity of public servants, DPSA has developed guidelines on how to set up ECD programmes in public service. The department is finalizing consultation process with external stakeholders and the initiative will be piloted in the new financial year.
Colleagues, the matter of infrastructure in ECD sector is of critical importance because it covers areas such as appropriate buildings, ICT and playgrounds. As President Zuma called all of us in his 2012 State of the Nation Address to join hands as we always do, to deal decisively with the triple challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality, I propose that all departments who have primary role in ECD, donor agencies and corporate South Africa explore possibility of establishing the ECD Fund in every Municipality to solely look at providing appropriate infrastructure in ECD sites. This initiative will augment what government is currently spending in ECD infrastructure development.
This will also address the problem of our children commuting from townships to towns every day to access ECD programmes with better infrastructure in towns. This will further lessen stress of young children who wake up as early as 05h00 Mondays to Fridays so that they can be ready for transport.
In conclusion, I wish to recognize and salute all cadres who have been actively advocating for the importance of ECD of which 99.9% are women who took upon themselves to initiate ECD programmes in the communities and used their homes as learning centers without any support from the former government. They have been "foot soldiers in the war against apartheid, the eyes and ears of the people and defenders of the poor".
To local and international donor agencies as well as corporate South Africa, well done for supporting the sector financially and otherwise during the dark days of apartheid and we urge you to continue the good work.
I thank you