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Fewer kids going to nursery schools, says Stats SA

Yoliswa Sobuwa Journalist
Pandemic has made it more difficult for parents to use daycare facilities.
Pandemic has made it more difficult for parents to use daycare facilities.
Image: Gallo Images/Luba Lesolle

A recent general household survey by Statistics SA reveals that the pandemic has caused a decrease in the number of children attending daycare centres and kindergarten facilities.

The report, released last week, shows that the number of children up to the age of four, who attend daycare centres or kindergarten, dropped from 36.8% in 2019 to 24.2% in 2020.

Arno Van der Merwe from the SA Childcare Association, said a number of parents had lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic. He said 2,300 early childhood development (ECD) centres were registered as part of their association.

“The decline is worrisome as there are less children attending ECD centres as a result of unemployment and for purely financial reasons. The second reason may be that they are fearful with regard to Covid-19 and parents don’t have the right information about the risk of Covid for children. We know from research that children are not a high risk grouping,” Van der Merwe said.  

ECD centres play a crucial part in the development of children, as sites where they learn social skills and develop self worth, he said.  

Nontobeko*, 39, said it has been a struggle to pay her four-year-old daughter’s creche fees. “The financial burden is too much for me. It also does not help that these preschools are very expensive. There are months when I have had to keep my child at home because I did not have money for her fees,” she said.

Another parent who asked to remain anonymous, said it has been two years since she was retrenched. 

“I have a five-year-old who is at home because we can’t afford her school fees. I understand ECD is an important part of a child’s development but there is nothing I can do at the moment,” she said.

According to statistics SA the percentage of children aged 0–4 years that remained at home with a parent, guardian, other adults or children increased from 57,8% in 2019 to 67,2% in 2020.

During the same time, the percentage of children that attended grade R, pre-school, nursery school, crèche, and edu-care centres decreased from 36,8% in 2019 to 24,2% in 2020.

The report read that school attendance was also negatively affected as, compared to 2019, a much larger percentage of children aged five did not attend an education institution as compared to six-year-olds.

Although Covid-19 forced many schools to close, very few learners aged 7–18 years of age attended schools that offered remote or home school alternatives to contact classes.

The survey shows that only 6,4% of learners could access remote or home school alternatives nationally. 

Attendance of ECD facilities was highest in Free State, Gauteng and Limpopo.

The report says that children in this age group, who are cared for by a parent or guardian at home (rather than going to school) increased from 57.8% in 2019 to 67.2% in 2020.

Statistics SA also revealed that  schools and other day care centres did close at times last year due to the pandemic, but many children were still not taken to school even though schools were re-opened.

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