Dept’s failure to provide infrastructure under scrutiny

POLOKWANE –  According to DA Limpopo Social Development Spokesperson, Katlego Phala, the Department of Social Development failed to equip 122 Early Childhood Development centres (ECDs) with the requisite infrastructure.

Phala said Social Development MEC, Joyce Mashamba, must account for her department’s failure.

“The department is sitting on a R41 million ECD conditional grant which it declined to allocate to these centres after environmental health practitioners found they had no ablution facilities, kitchens, food preparation areas and insufficient spaces for learning,” she said.

“The implications of denying funding to 41 ECD centres in Vhembe, 38 in Waterberg, 29 in Sekhukhune, 10 in Capricorn, and four in Mopani will have a negative impact on education outcomes,” she added. Phala explained the department has failed to train an estimated 2 667 ECD educators that were found to be unfit. “We will fight to ensure the affected learners at the 122 ECD centres receive the education they are entitled to,” said Phala. Department Spokesperson, Adele van der Linde, said it is not the department’s mandate to build or improve infrastructure of ECDs. “We fund some ECDs through Non-Profit Organisations (NPO) funding. Also, the R41 million grant referred to has not yet been allocated. We are in the process of providing the national department with a business plan in terms of the conditional grant that will be allocated for the first time during the 2017/18 financial year.

“Also, the department does not train educators, that is the responsibility of the Department of Education,” Van der Linde explained.

She added that funding is allocated during a three-year cycle. It is therefore still not clear when they claim these ECDs were denied funding. Van Der Linde said funding is not terminated but suspended.

The Service Level Agreement entered into by the department and the NPO, she added, clearly outlines NPO obligations, reporting in terms of utilisation of funding, including monitoring. “According to Chapter 6 of the National Integrated ECD Policy 2015, there are various stakeholders contributing towards ECD. ECD infrastructure in this regard is the responsibility of the local government, through district municipalities. Municipalities are responsible for supporting childcare facilities to meet minimum infrastructural health and safety standards, registration of child-minding services, development of new ECD service provision infrastructure, audit and identification of available infrastructure that may be used for the ECD programme.”

She further said, in terms of the conditional grant that will be allocated during 2017/18, not every ECD centre will benefit. This grant is specifically for the expansion of subsidy to the deserving children in unfunded ECD centres and for renovations or maintenance of conditionally registered ECD centres to become fully registered. Therefore, the maintenance has a set selection criteria as mandated by both National Treasury and Social Development.

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Endy Senyatsi

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