CAS Africa Office Hosts Early Childhood Development (ECD) Management and Compliance Workshop

September 29, 2022
ECD Workshop Participants

The Harvard University Center for African Studies (CAS) Africa Office conducted and successfully concluded its first Early Childhood Development (ECD) Management and Compliance Workshop on September 19-20, 2022. Over the two days, principals of 16 ECD centres from Kanana, Tembisa, in Gauteng convened at the Africa Office in Johannesburg for a workshop hosted in close collaboration with The Pink Forum. The goal of the workshop was to equip the principals – all women – with basic management skills to run their centers effectively and deepen understanding of the national requirements for running compliant ECD centres that offer quality education to the children in the centers.

The story of children growing up in Kanana mirrors the stories of many children growing up in South Africa’s informal settlements. Structural economic inequalities rooted in the history of the country and the resulting adverse social impact on informal settlement communities continue to compromise the quality of education children receive in the early stages of their cognitive development. Well-intended and caring leaders in the communities take on the task of running early childhood development centers where children from the ages of 0-6 years old are cared for during the day while their parents are at work. In most cases, the educational background of the founders and principals is not strong enough to have prepared them for the mammoth task of running formal centers and preparing young children for early education. Due to a lack of basic business management skills, non- compliance, and limited access to information, the principals miss out on subsidies, funding opportunities, and other resources the government and non-government organizations make available to ECD centers.
In April 2022, the government of South Africa implemented its long-term strategy to move ECD centers under the auspices of the Department of Basic Education (DBE), from the Department of Social Development (DSD), to be able to offer the ECD centers adequate support.

Sherilyn Naidoo (LLM ‘22), a CAS Harvard South Africa Fellowship Program alum and legal expert, presented on legal aspects of registering an NPO, protection of children’s rights, and protection of personal information in the workshop. Sherilyn shared that she could “sense the eagerness of the principals to learn and saw the pride and gratitude that the principals exhibited from having so many stakeholders in the room, all for their assistance”. However, the engagement with the principals revealed that ECD centers in informal settlements experience several unique challenges and difficulties. These challenges include adhering to requirements for tax exemption, successfully registering with relevant government departments, lack of financial support, and difficulty meeting environmental health compliance requirements.

ECD Workshop

Requirements for EDC centers can at times be inconsistent with the structural infrastructure of informal settlements. For example, while there is limited or no access to running water nor toilets in some areas, ECD facilities are required to have running water and numerous toilets. This can leave those running these facilities in a predicament of how they will ever be able to achieve compliance. Sherilyn argued “the state of ECD centers is because of the current South African socioeconomic and political climate. The issues are systemic; therefore, while the training and ongoing support can empower the principals, there needs to be a move to ensure political will in changing the systemic issue”. She pointed out that “HSAFP produces amazing graduates from various fields, who can assist ECD’s in providing safe and quality education. For example, fellows can assist in sourcing funding for ECD development and lobbying of government to improve socioeconomic conditions.”

Through this workshop, the women gained understanding of the new DBE function for ECD centres and the transition from DSD to DBE. The women were empowered with broad knowledge for options available to them regarding the type of entities they can run, as well as the understanding of what the implications are for each type of entity. They gained understanding of the process of applying for registrations of NPOs and ECDCs respectively, and they learned about South African Revenue (SARS) requirements for tax exemption and how to apply for exemption. Health and safety expectations by the City of Johannesburg Department of Health were clarified and the importance of adherence to requirements emphasized. The two days further allowed the principals to reflect on the status of their facilities and begin to path the way forward to being able to provide quality service and stimulation of development to the children in their centers.

ECD Workshop