Minister Motshekga raises concerns on early childhood learning

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has visited one of South Africa’s top-performing districts in the matric exams to speak to officials involved in early childhood development (ECD).

Motshekga, who was accompanied by Free State Education MEC Makalo Mohale, met with officials in the Fezile Dabi district office on Wednesday to discuss challenges in integrating ECD into the basic education sector.

The ECD function was moved from social development to basic education on April 1 2022.

Fezile Dabi falls in the top five of the best-performing districts in the National Senior Certificate results, along with Motheo district.

Motshekga highlighted the importance of increasing access to early childhood education for all children in the province, especially those in rural areas, informal settlements, and townships.

Quality education

Noting that there were still a lot of children who were not enrolled in registered ECD centres, Motshekga encouraged officials to go to the critical areas to support the centres to ensure that they offer quality education.

“Quality drivers such as resources, infrastructure, training, and centre registration remain some of the key aspects that will continue to build an inclusive and holistic ECD space within the sector,” she said.

At the announcement of the matriculation results on January 19, Motshekga said the next phase in the basic education landscape was to continue to ramp up ECD programmes.

She said her department would be focusing on the foundational skills of reading, writing, and counting and diversifying the curriculum for the skills and competencies of a changing world.

Mother tongue learning is vital

“ECD is with us now; therefore, the foundations for learning must be strengthened from ECD right through the foundation and intermediate phases.

“With the imminent approval of the Bela [Basic Education Laws Amendment] bill by His Excellency, the president, grade R will be compulsory, thus giving us an opportunity to strengthen the foundations of learning,” she said.

In her engagement with Free State officials in the ECD sector, Motshekga also emphasised the importance of mother-tongue learning.

She encouraged the officials to support and train those who are running the centres by ensuring that they have adequate training and appropriate material in the mother tongue language of children.

A census of the ECD sector published in 2022 shows that less than 40% of ECD centres were registered in South Africa.

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