Pre-school effort lauded

The demand for pre-school education and care is growing as more women find paid employment outside the home, Education Minister Naledi Pandor said.

The demand for pre-school education and care is growing as more women find paid employment outside the home, Education Minister Naledi Pandor said.

Helping to launch the Absa and Sowetan Early Childhood Development (ECD) Awards in Pretoria this month, Pandor said: "Pre-school is almost universal in most European countries. For Africa, provision in this area offers real opportunities for income generation and quality care for young children.

"Studies show the benefits of early development programmes. Subsequent repetition rates are lower, language development is higher and primary school completion rates are higher for children who have had access to ECD programmes."

Pandor said that in South Africa, the Social Development Department was the leading department for services to children under the age of four.

"Their responsibility is to manage the registration of the 9000 ECD sites, as well as to provide a subsidy for those children who require it," Pandor said.

She said the Education Department was responsible for trainers at registered sites. "Training is essential and yet at the moment, ECD careers typically receive less training than primary school teachers. Qualified teachers in primary schools that offer grade R or an ECD opportunity often work alongside untrained childcare workers, many of them working part-time or as volunteers.

"Our aim is to ensure universal grade R enrolment by 2010. Currently two in three children are in grade R in schools or in community centres," Pandor said.

"By 2010, all primary schools should be supported to offer grade R."

She said: "It is in this context that I am particularly excited to be part of the Absa-Sowetan ECD Awards. It is a fact that awards are a well-recognised way of drawing attention to excellence. Given our practice of tending to focus on the negative, such awards acknowledge that there are many people making a positive contribution in education.

"I am pleased to be associated with this process because it supports our aim of recognising and acknowledging quality and excellence in the provision of early learning and care in South Africa.

"I see this initiative playing an important role in motivating our ECD teachers, practitioners, caregivers, parents and organisations," Pandor said.

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