OP-ED: The role of local government in ensuring universal access to Early Childhood Development (ECD) for all children in South Africa
10 October 2022 | By Tshepo Mantjé
The future of South Africa’s children is being hindered by onerous, unrealistic, and unaffordable regulations about early childhood development (ECD) at municipal level, including the registration of crèches.
Research shows that what happens during the early years of a child’s life can have effects that last a lifetime. This is the time when the child develops valuable skills and attitudes which will contribute to lifelong learning. These skills include the acquisition of language, learning to read and write, problem-solving skills, and basic numeracy.
White Paper 5 on Early Childhood Development states that “while there is this growing consensus that what happens during the early months and years have dramatic consequences for the rest of childhood and adolescence, our children across the country and the world are most neglected in our policies, programmes and budgets”. The paper goes on to emphasise “early childhood development should merit higher priority attention”. This document was published in 2001. But two decades later, local policies and budgets do not reflect the needs of this sector.
Registration regulations are onerous, unrealistic, and unaffordable; there is a lack of support for infrastructure development; and funding is almost non-existent. Challenges include complicated land-use requirements (zoning), excessive costs for building plans, high fees for basic services and municipal costs, as well as onerous health and safety requirements. These problems can all be fixed by local government.