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Budget 2024: Calls for increased funding and support for ECD

Sameera Casmod |
21 February 2024 | 10:18 a.m. SAST
2 minute read

Ahead of Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana’s 2024 budget speech later today, early childhood development (ECD) practitioners are urging the government to prioritise the sector in budget allocations. These calls are being made in the wake of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s commitment at the State of the Nation Address (SONA) earlier this month to bolster resources for ECD and improve access to its services.

ECD extends beyond childcare centres and encompasses the critical period of development from birth to six years old, the coordinator of the Real Reform for ECD campaign, Tshepo Mantjé, explains. It is a crucial phase of development in a child’s life, characterised by profound neural growth and foundational experiences that shape a child’s future well-being, health, and learning trajectory.

However, despite its immense potential to address inequality and generate employment, the ECD sector faces chronic underfunding in South Africa. Mantjé says that only registered ECD centres receive state funding, with R17 allocated for each child currently. This inadequate funding fails to address the comprehensive developmental needs of children, especially concerning nutrition and holistic support.

“The state is only funding registered ECD centres, and registered ECD centres in South Africa fall under 50% of the centres that we have. And the centres that are being funded are only receiving R17 per child per day… And of this R17, only R6,80 is meant for food or nutrition support at ECD centers… [Which] doesn’t just pay for the food, but pays for everything that gets the food made and ready for the child,” Mantjé says.

Real Reform for ECD is thus calling for urgent reforms, urging the minister of finance to increase funding for the ECD sector to R46 per child. Such an increase, Mantjé says, will enable ECD centres to provide essential services to all children and facilitate pre-registration support to expand access across the country.

ECD programmes have shifted from the Department of Social Development to the Department of Education, positioning the latter as the custodian of ECD in South Africa. This transition signifies an opportunity for the Department of Education to lead initiatives aimed at enhancing the quality and accessibility of ECD centres nationwide.

“There has been a shift of these ECD programs from the Department of Social Development to the Department of Education. And the Department of Education is now the custodian of early childhood development,” Mantjé says.

Mantjé underscores the need for the Department of Basic Education to develop a dedicated nutrition program for ECD centres, mirroring existing initiatives for primary and high schools. By addressing these key areas, South Africa can ensure that every child receives the support and resources necessary for optimal development during this critical stage.

“[There is an opportunity] for the DBE to develop a nutrition program for these ECD centres. The same way that the DBE has a nutrition program for primary schools and high schools to develop a unique one for ECD centres so that they also can get nutrition provided,” Mantjé says.

Listen to the full interview on Sabaahul Muslim with Moulana Sulaimaan Ravat here.


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