Devastating lockdown impact on ECDs may be permanent

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Devastating lockdown impact on ECDs may be permanent

Published on: March 9th, 2021

Based on an average of 50 kids per centre, it’s estimated 250 to 350 children had been left out of Early Childhood Development (ECD), according to Afrika Tikkun, a non-profit youth development organisation.

Afrika Tikkun chief executive Alef Meulenberg said the past year had been extremely hard for the ECD sector. He said 10% of the 50 to 70 pre-schools the organisation worked with had closed permanently.

“Based on an average of 50 kids per centre, we estimate 250 to 350 children have been left stranded in our circle alone.

“That may not seem like a lot, but if you extrapolate this over the thousands of registered and unregistered preschools in South Africa, a number that could be as high as 1 784 as stated in a report by the University of Johannesburg. 1784 centres may have closed since March last year,” he said.

Meulenberg added that based on 50 pupils per school, this may have affected 89 200 boys and girls. He also stressed the far-reaching consequences and impact this would have had on the children’s development and overall chances in life.

“A child’s first thousand days are critical to his or her emotional, mental, and physical development and quality. ECD services play a crucial role in this,” he said.

Meulenberg said apart from ECD’s being the platform where children learnt through play, it was also essential in the overall development and cognitive skills. In South Africa, ECD services have a strong and often vital nutrition component.

“Not having access to enough nutritious food in your earliest years causes learning and development delays later,” Meulenberg said, referring to scientific research that showed young adults who were stunted as young children were more likely to drop out of school and remain unemployed than counterparts who had enough to eat. “At the moment, 30% of children are stunted.”

The R496 million in relief funding would go a long way, the chief executive said.

Of the R496 million received by National Treasury, R53 million has been earmarked to support ECD programmes and services in the Western Cape.

The Early Childhood Development Employment Stimulus Relief Fund is part of sustainable employment opportunities in the sector in light of the high unemployment rate and job losses caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.