The Department of Social Development made a presentation at the national ECD conference on its proposed Infrastructure Policy for partial care and ECD centres. This marks a critical development in improving the quality of ECD services in South Africa. At present, poor-quality or non-existent infrastructure is a key barrier that prevents children in poverty from enjoying quality early childhood care and education.
The DoSD policy recognises that historical infrastructure backlogs, lack of uniformity in the design of ECD facilities, limited infrastructural support to NGOs, poor monitoring of infrastructure and weak planning have all contributed to the enfeebled state of ECD infrastructure in South Africa. It further recognises the need for alternative models of infrastructure provisioning.
The policy aims to fill the current gap left by the lack of a national infrastructure plan and covers the following: determining the demand for facilities in the country; improved access to ECD; a partnership strategy; support for NPOs; funding options; uniformity of design; norms and standards; and service delivery approaches for ECD.
The policy seeks to determine need and prioritises the building of centres in accordance with the guidance provided by the Spatial Development Framework to enable the shared use of facilities to reduce operating costs and as per targets for maximum distances to be travelled by people to access government services.
The policy envisages mobile units for deep rural areas, strengthening home and community based services, constructing one-stop development centres, the use of existing infrastructure such as traditional leadership community structures, sharing spaces at a school with the erection of an ECD wing on existing school premises, and using abandoned schools for ECD centres.
The policy prescribes design features to see to it that ECD programmes ensure optimal development, align with the disability strategy, are appropriate to the developmental stages of children, are stimulating, and promote self-discovery and the child’s holistic development.
The policy emphasises the need to reduce centre-based ECD provision and the need to roll out ECD infrastructure along with adequate budgets for operating costs and a staff component for facilities. Above all, the safety of children must be secured.
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