If not rescued, 15% of SA's creches could close down, warns NGO

A non-governmental organisation has raised the alarm about the imminent closure of some preschool facilities if government does not intervene to assist financially.
A non-governmental organisation has raised the alarm about the imminent closure of some preschool facilities if government does not intervene to assist financially.
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A non-governmental body that supports early childhood development facilities is appealing for financial aid grants for the sector, as crèches across the country struggle in the extended lockdown.

Prof Eric Atmore, founding director of the Centre for Childhood Development, said: “We have made several calls on the president and the ministers for basic education and social development for clarity on when ECD centres can reopen. We have also asked for information on financial aid packages being considered for this sector, but our pleas have thus far fallen on deaf ears.”

Early childhood development educators and staff are now allowed to return to work but have a series of hurdles to overcome before children are allowed back into their care.

The department of social development said in a circular dated June 21 that children would not be allowed back at crèche or partial-care facilities until the minister had gazetted the final date and conditions under which they could reopen.

Atmore said SA has an estimated 32,000 early childhood development centres, each with about 50 children they care for each day.

“I am deeply concerned at the prospects for our ECD sector and the projected number of centres that will have no choice but to close. They have already battled to keep the lights on after parents stopped paying monthly fees.

“The knock-on effects for the sector can be devastating and I expect that as many as 15% of the centres might close down. Not all of them have ... financial resources ... and this makes government assistance an urgent matter,” Atmore added.

There is also real fear, he adds, that vulnerable young children could become victims of crime and abuse if they are no longer able to spend each day in the safety of an ECD facility while parents are at work.

“My proposal to the government is the one-off allocation of a pandemic-related Covid-19 grant of R20,000 to each registered ECD. This money can be used to procure all the necessary protective equipment that is needed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus when ECD centres can eventually reopen,” said Atmore.


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