Unlocking change for early childhood development

Tess Peacock (Social Investment Specialist) |

A collaboration across 13 local organisations is bringing new hope and impetus in addressing some of the challenges facing South African early childhood development (ECD) services. Combining a wealth of resources and experiences, we’re hoping to collectively rethink approaches, responses and ultimately solutions for our country’s children…

Giving children access to high-quality ECD services, including health, social support and education, during the first five years of life provides the greatest social return on investment possible. Effective ECD dramatically improves individual trajectories and, more importantly, strengthens the human capital foundation of South Africa.

Despite this, our ECD services remain chronically underfunded. Further, of the nearly six million children in the country, only 20% of the poorest households send their children to ECD centres and more than half have no access to quality early learning programmes.

After extensive lobbying and making meaningful policy gains in the ECD sector, Treasury recently allocated a conditional grant of R812.8 million to DSD for the purposes of advancing access to ECD services and improving the quality of existing facilities.

To support ECD efforts, FirstRand Foundation and Tshikululu Social Investments are working alongside 11 other organisations to form the Early Childhood Development Consortium Group (CG). It combines collective decades of experience of investing and working in the early childhood development sector and purposefully coordinates resources and expertise to ensure the effective implementation of the ECD Conditional Grant by DSD.

The CG and DSD have formed a partnership around strategic and technical support and advice. We are collaborating on:

  1. ECD finance and subsidy reform processes
  2. Unblocking infrastructure and registration challenges by developing guidelines for project related infrastructure across provinces and assisting to implement and monitor the maintenance component of the conditional grant;
  3. Monitoring and planning support in terms of data collection, business plans, baseline data and the development of an ECD management information system; and
  4. Developing an appropriate legal, policy and implementation framework for the expansion of more affordable non-centre based ECD services.  Tshikululu sits on the non-centre based ECD workstream and has already provided extensive legal and policy-related support to the CG.

Tshikululu has invested R500 000 into the CG, and the FirstRand Foundation has invested R1 500 000. The Anglo American Chairman’s Fund, although not a member of the CG, has also made a sizeable contribution of R 1 500 000 to support this work.

The CG members are as follows: the DG Murray Trust; the Elma Philanthropies Services (Africa) (Pty) Ltd; the Firstrand Foundation; Yellowwoods Social Investments NPC; Hollard Trust; Assupol Community Trust; Tshikululu Social Investments; Ilifa Labantwana; Kago Ya Bana; Standard Bank Tutuwa Community Foundation; Kago Ya Bana ECD Enterprise Incubator; Innovation Edge; Smartstart Early Learning NPC.

By improving DSD systems and addressing key bottlenecks, this initiative will bring more children into the regulatory fold and increase the number of fully registered facilities in the country.

We have an obligation to ensure universal access to quality ECD services and hope that this innovative partnership is one of many that will grow and expand the capacity of the system to meet this goal. Over time, the impact will speak for itself – through our children – creating hope for the generations that follow.