South Africa

EQUALITY IN EDUCATION

Early Childhood Development court order will ‘exacerbate gross inequalities in SA’

Early Childhood Development court order will ‘exacerbate gross inequalities in SA’
(Photo: Leila Dougan)

The order handed down on Monday, that private Early Childhood Development centres may reopen subject to prescribed protective gear to combat Covid-19, will exclude thousands of centres that serve the poorer communities in South Africa.

See previous article on ruling here

The chaos and confusion that exists in official circles regarding childcare centres was clearly illustrated on Monday in a judgment handed down by the Pretoria High Court. Justice Hans Fabricius noted: “It is, with respect, even for a legal professional, a challenge to wade through the complexities of the situation.”

But he ruled, in a judgment castigating the behaviour of both the Basic Education Department and the Department of Social Development, that private preschool establishments could open immediately. However, this would be subject to “prescribed safety measures being in place”. This relates to private protection equipment (PPE).

The action was brought by the Skole-Ondersteuningsentrum (SOS), the Bronkiesland Kleuterskool and the Solidarity Union that supports the SOS. 

The SA Childcare Association ((SACA), a subsidiary of a Pretoria-based company offering various training services, joined the action as amicus curiae, and hailed the ruling as a major breakthrough.

However, the ruling is unlikely to have any effect on the overwhelming majority of the perhaps 32,000 childcare centres around the country.

See the full judgment here: 

Despite its name, SACA represents only that tiny fraction of preschool facilities that are based, for the most part, in affluent suburbs of Pretoria and Johannesburg. SOS, which is supported by the Solidarity Union, was established to “ensure the future of Christian and Afrikaans education” and has a limited following.

Most childcare centres, both registered and unregistered, exist virtually from hand to mouth and are based almost exclusively in high density urban settlements (both formal and informal) and in rural areas. The Cape Town-based Centre for Early Childhood Development (CECD) estimates that it would cost each of these facilities R4,000 to comply with the “prescribed safety measures”.

According to CECD director, Professor Eric Atmore, the effect of the ruling will be to “exacerbate the gross inequalities that already exist” because few, if any, of the “township centres” have the wherewithal to meet the PPE requirements.

As a result, the CECD has launched a campaign to raise R2.4-million to enable as many as possible of these centres to reopen as soon as possible. DM

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