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By Getrude Makhafola

Premium Journalist

Budget 2024: Calls to allocate more funding for the struggling early childhood sector

A non-profit organisation says the R17 subsidy for one child a day is too little.

Early childhood practitioners have urged Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana to increase funding for the sector in his 2024 budget allocation.

Real Reform for Early Childhood Development (RRECD), an umbrella organisation advocating better creches, says the R17 per child per day subsidy reaches too few and is too little.

Out of the R17, R6,80 is intended for nutrition. There has been no subsidy increase since 2019.

The RRECD called on Godongwana to increase the subsidy to R46 per child and allocate more money for pre-registration and support for ECD centres.

‘Help young Tintswalos’

Using President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Tintswalo tale in his Sona speech, RRECD said a Tintswalo born in 2024 will have a tough time.

“Even assuming that Tintswalo could access ECD, there would still be a 50% chance that she would fail to thrive by age five.

“With just a R17 subsidy, many practitioners are struggling to provide a safe environment, nutritious food and age-appropriate stimulation.

“Worse, onerous registration requirements and lack of government support mean most disadvantaged children attending in townships and rural areas do not benefit at all,” the organisation said.

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To date, the subsidy reaches just 650 000 of the 4,3 million children aged up to five, RRECD added.

“Without the essential foundation, Tintswalo would struggle. She could be among the one in four stunted children in South Africa.

“Once she reaches the school system, Tintswalo would very likely be among the 81% who can’t read for meaning.”

Adequate nutrition for all

In 2022, government shifted ECD from the Department of Social Development to the Department of Basic Education.

The move was welcomed by some practitioners who lauded government for its educational outlook for pre-schoolers.

But inadequate funding has left many children without proper care and learning, said the RRECD.

“We urge the department to provide nutrition support to all eligible children, regardless of whether the programmes are registered or not.

“We must not neglect vulnerable children, especially at unregistered programmes as they stand the most to gain from nutrition support.”

Godongwana will deliver the 2024 budget speech on Wednesday.

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