A new report by civil society groups has highlighted the financial struggles faced by early childhood development (ECD) centres during the lockdown, with many of them facing extinction.
The report was compiled by Ilifa Labantwana, the Nelson Mandela Foundation, National ECD Alliance, Smartstart and the South African Congress for Early Childhood Development. The organisations surveyed 3 952 ECD operators across the country employing six people on average. The results of the survey paint a grim picture.
The study found 99% of operators reported parents had stopped paying fees due to the lockdown, while 83% of ECD centres have not been able to pay the full salaries of staff over the lockdown period.
The study also showed 96% of them reported that their income was not enough to pay their operating costs.
Sixty-eight of ECD centres surveyed said they were worried that they would not be able to reopen after the lockdown, according to the report, titled The Plight of the ECD Workforce. Sumaya Hendricks of the Nelson Mandela Foundation said the government should include ECD centres in its R500-billion Covid-19 relief plan.
“We urge him [President Cyril Ramaphosa] to now extend this action to the people working in the ECD sector, who face extraordinary hardship in the months to come,” Hendricks said.
“Their role in ECD forms part of the foundation of our education system, the well-being of tomorrow’s workforce, and South Africa’s joint prosperity.”
According to the report, 20 000 to 30 000 ECD operators run the risk of closing down.