If you’re a parent or guardian of a young child and you’ve had the option to choose whether to work or be a stay-at-home parent, then you’re better off than most families in South Africa for which there’s no choice. They have to work in order to survive. But, what about their children who are still too young to be enrolled in a primary school? According to the new World Bank report, more than 40% of all children below primary school age do not have access to childcare.
The Covid-19 pandemic and the recent lockdowns have exposed how vulnerable these communities are while emphasising the gaps and flaws in our current systems meant to support them. In a report called The Plight of the ECD Workforce, collated by various Early Childhood Development (ECD) organisations in April 2020, they note that there are tens of thousands of unregistered ECD centres that provide care to over 1.5 million children in South Africa. These providers are the most vulnerable because they aren’t registered to receive the government subsidy and unemployment risk support during the pandemic.
To date there has been little traction following the relief support strategy that the Department of Social Development mentioned back in December 2020 for the registered ECD centres. For many ECD provider’s time is running out. There are projected to be between 20 000 – 30 000 ECD operators that run the risk of closing. Should these ECD centres close, they’ll mostly likely close for good as the resources needed to start-up a centre versus maintaining it differ greatly.
Access to quality affordable childcare for all children
What alternatives do parents have now that the lockdown restrictions have lifted? Often, children are left in the care of an older family member or a crèche, day-care or, if they’re lucky enough, an early childhood development centre (that’s still operating), to look after them during the day while parents are at work. For the poorest of the community, that quality of care is directly proportional to what they can afford and as a result many children spend time in unsafe and unstimulating environments.
The Love Trust hopes to flip that model on its head by providing the best quality childcare and education to the poorest of the poor. They believe that by providing quality education as well as psychosocial support to children from a young age they open up a whole new world of possibilities for their learners, as well as reaching more children by providing accredited teacher training for ECD centres across the country.
Investing in childcare leads to a better future
To the children themselves, some of the obvious benefits of access to quality education and care include a safe environment to play, quality stimulation, social skills, stability, routine, and a full stomach – all of which help improve cognitive ability as well as emotional, psychological, and physical wellbeing. The ripple effect of this extends to the teachers, parents and community at large: according to the new report Better Jobs and Brighter Futures: Investing in Childcare to Build Human Capital “investments in childcare can increase women’s employment and productivity, create new jobs, improve child outcomes, drive economic growth, and support a more resilient and inclusive recovery from the pandemic.”
But NPOs such as The Love Trust don’t work in isolation and need the support and partnership of the private sector to maintain these high standards and achieve their ultimate goal of economic upliftment through quality education.
Education is a liberator
According to Dr. Jerry Gule, the Chairman of The Love Trust, “If we neglect education, particularly those first seven years, we will be dooming our country and communities to utter poverty. Because education is a liberator, and the benefits are long term.”
It’s a strategy that is supported by the World Bank: “Investing in quality, affordable childcare is key to unlocking pathways out of poverty, helping everyone achieve their potential, and increasing equity – all of which are cornerstones of a country’s economic growth and productivity.”
You too can unlock pathways out of poverty by donating.