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Organisations embark on drive to arm crèches with face masks before reopening

Two organisations in Makhanda, Eastern Cape, are on a mission to produce a thousand masks for local ECD centres. /123RF
Two organisations in Makhanda, Eastern Cape, are on a mission to produce a thousand masks for local ECD centres. /123RF

Two organisations have joined forces to make face masks for distribution to early childhood development (ECD) centres in Makhanda, Eastern Cape.

The Rhodes University Community Engagement (Ruce) has partnered with Facemasks 4 Makana to make 1,000 masks for children aged between two and six.

There are about 78 ECD centres with about 1,200 children which operate in a quasi informal manner and won't be receiving personal protective equipment from the government.

Ruce coordinator Anna Talbot said the campaign launched on June 9, started with 250 masks.

But with more people getting involved, there is hope that the goal of 1,000 masks would be surpassed, she said.

"We hope that more communities across South Africa will initiate such campaigns for ECD centers because they play an important role in education," Talbot said.

Facemasks 4 Makana has distributed thousands of masks since the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown.

"The biggest concern is that these children are at home unsupervised while their parents go to work and I feel that the sooner they can return to these centres, the better," said the organisation.

Pamela Sandi of Makhanda ECD Forum said they have been struggling and facing funding challenges as a sector since the beginning of the lockdown.

"We depend on school fees and the stipend from government. However, fees haven't been paid because children have not been coming to school and neither have we received the stipend" Sandi said.

The forum is concerned about the lack of information provided by the department of social development with regards to plans on reopening ECD centres and assistance with resources to help them curb the spread of the virus.

"ECD centres are there to teach and give children a foundation in education and in life. We support our communities by feeding children who are not getting meals at home."

Department of social development spokesperson Lumka Oliphant said ECD centres registered with the department will remain closed under alert level 3 which came into effect on June 1. The centres that are managed under the Schools Act but not formally registered with the ECD will open on July 6.

Under the banner of "every child counts", the department has partnered up with the Nelson Mandela Foundation to address unregistered facilities that do not meet the minimum requirements set out in the Children's Act.

The state of readiness of ECD centres and recommendations on health and hygiene measures to contain the spread of Covid-19 will be assessed by the department.

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