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Crèche owners protest against Department of Social Dev...

South Africa

GROUNDUP SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

Crèche owners protest outside Parliament to demand outstanding grants

Teachers and owners of early childhood development centres protested outside Parliament on Thursday, 17 March 2022, to demand the payment of outstanding money owed from the Covid relief fund set up for them in 2021. (Photo: Mary-Anne Gontsana)

The government owes money to early childhood development centres that want to be paid by the end of the month.

Early childhood development (ECD) centres have given the Department of Social Development until the end of March to pay out all outstanding money from the Covid relief fund. The Early Childhood Development Stimulus Relief Fund, set up in 2021 to help centres to survive the impact of the Covid pandemic, allows for a once-off payment of R4,186 per staff member.

About 100 ECD owners and educators protested outside Parliament on Thursday, demanding that the Department of Social Development (DSD) be held accountable. They asked President Cyril Ramaphosa and Parliament’s Social Development Portfolio Committee to ensure that the funds are not “lost” by the end of the financial year.

GroundUp reported last month that many ECD centres were yet to be paid Covid relief funds and, according to the Centre for Early Childhood Development (CECD), at least 7,000 ECD staff members – out of nearly 13,000 – are yet to be paid in the Western Cape.

Wearing yellow T-shirts, the protesters, from Cape Town, Pretoria and Worcester, waved placards with “DSD has failed the ECD sector”, “DSD are you listening” and “Pay now before it’s too late”, as they burst into song.

Theodora Lutuli, principal of two centres in Nyanga, and provincial chairperson of the South African Congress for Early Childhood Development, said: “Many people have closed their centres, lost their jobs… and a lot of children have been out of ECD centres. That is why today we have mobilised.”

Nomonde Vusi, who owns Eyona Educare in Nyanga East, said keeping her crèche open was a struggle. She said the crèche catered to poor families, not all of whom could pay fees. 

“Most of the parents are either teenagers who still attend school, or those who get piece jobs and do not have permanent work.” 

Vusi said she had 40 children in her crèche and four staff members who sometimes went months without getting paid.

According to their memorandum, over R250-million is owed to the ECD workers who applied for the relief funding. They demanded that all outstanding funds must be paid by 31 March.

CECD’s advocacy and social justice manager, Yusrah Ehrenreich, said the sector “desperately” needed the funds.

The memorandum was signed and accepted by DSD Chief of Staff, Abram Phahlamohlaka, portfolio committee member Alexandra Abrahams and Presidency representative Charles Ford.

Addressing the protesters, Phahlamohlaka said the demands were “loud and clear” and he could “guarantee” that Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu was aware of the protest and was “expecting the memorandum”. 

“The minister will hold the department accountable to ensure that your reasonable demands are met,” said Phahlamohlaka.

Originally published on GroundUp.

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