Home News Fear that cash-strapped Northern Cape ECD centres won’t reopen

Fear that cash-strapped Northern Cape ECD centres won’t reopen

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“The majority of ECD centres have not received funding since the start of the national lockdown”

File picture: Dumisani Sibeko

EARLY childhood development centres (ECDs) in the Northern Cape that have not received their government subsidies may not be able to reopen next year.

The chairperson of the ECD Progressive Movement, Clive Tswaile, said yesterday that centres that were still awaiting the delivery of personal protective equipment (PPEs) were also not allowed to operate.

“The majority of ECD centres have not received funding since the start of the national lockdown, while employees have not received their stipends and salaries. All payments stopped in April,” said Tswaile.

He stated that a directive was issued that ECD centres that received their funding before March 31 should continue to receive their funding in the 2020/21 financial year for the duration of the lockdown.

Tswaile indicated that R1.3 billion was allocated to assist ECDs around the country over the lockdown period.

“We want to know where the money that was allocated to the Northern Cape was spent, if it was never distributed to ECDs. Many centres had to close during the lockdown.”

He stated that some centres were still waiting for subsidies that were supposed to be paid in August 2019.

“Funding was only provided to ECDs that had submitted business plans and audited financial statements at the end of September. Previously, subsidies were allocated to centres based on the number of registered children.”

Tswaile said that the Department of Social Development had informed them that business plans would not be accepted or appraised if ECDs did not have valid registration certificates.

“There was no mention in the government gazette about submitting a business plan under the Disaster Management Act.”

He pointed out that workers that were employed at ECD centres were unable to sustain themselves and their families.

“ECDs were founded by mothers and caring women who opened centres in their backyards and shacks. Families are now unable to buy groceries, pay school fees, while their policies and rental agreements have lapsed. These women are at the front-line of poverty. The emotional and mental strain that the ECD practitioners and centres are facing is immense and unimaginable.”

The spokesperson for the Office of the Premier, Bronwyn Thomas-Abrahams, said they were aware of the challenges faced by the ECD sector.

“A meeting has been facilitated between the sector representatives and the Department of Social Development,” said Thomas-Abrahams. “The Office of the Premier is satisfied that the matter is being dealt with in the appropriate manner and with the required urgency.”

The spokesperson for the provincial Department of Social Development, Gamiem Abrahams, denied that any payments were stopped to ECD centres.

He stated that 67 ECD centres in the Frances Baard district received subsidies for the period April 1 to November 30.

“ECD centres registered as non-profit organisations receive a rate of R17 per child per day. The department does not pay the salaries of practitioners or other staff. All operational costs must be paid through the subsidy amount. It therefore stands to reason that not all ECDs will receive the same monthly subsidy that is calculated per child registered. All ECD staff are employed by ECD centres that are non-profit organisations or privately registered,” said Abrahams.

He indicated that during the lockdown, ECD centres were paid 60 percent of their normal subsidies, as children were not physically attending the centres to benefit from the nutrition programme, which formed about 40 percent of the subsidy.

“The nutrition portion was paid out to ECD centres and back-dated from November to purchase nutrition packs.

“In line with Covid-19 protocols, it was necessary to adjust spending. During this time, the government introduced various aid initiatives for ECD staff.”

Abrahams added that the department had an obligation to ensure that all funded ECDs and non-profit organisations complied with the prescribed norms and standards.

“The national guidelines for administering the subsidy states that ECD centres may apply for a subsidy based on the submission of a business plan.”

He explained that reasons why funding was not approved included not being properly registered, non-submission of business plans and financial statements, and management boards that were ineffective.

“The Department is mandated to ensure that all money entrusted to NPOs is spent in accordance with the provisions of the law.

“Children in Grade R are not subsidised as this is a competency vested in the Department of Basic Education. The department only funds ECDs for children who are officially registered.”

Abrahams added that ECD centres were encouraged to apply to the National Lotteries Commission and other corporate investment organisations to boost their income.

“The Presidential Employment Stimulus package is intended to assist ECD centres that have lost revenue during the state of disaster. The national allocation is R496 million to assist 108 833 ECD staff across the country. This package is scheduled to be paid in 2021 for the period October 2020 to March 2021.”

Abrahams said personal protective equipment and cleaning material has been procured and would be delivered to ECD centres in the Province in January 2021.

“ECD Centres are allowed to reopen on condition that they comply with all Covid-19 prevention and safety protocols.”

He added that ECD centres were expected to re-register 90 days prior to the expiry of their registration at the Department of Social Development.

He added that executive and senior managers met with the ECD Progressive Movement at the Office of the Premier on Monday.

“A number of prior meetings to discuss similar issues raised by the ECD Progressive Movement have been held since August 2019.”