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By Lunga Simelane


Grade R will be prioritised, says Lesufi as ECD allocated R1.9 billion

Gauteng's department of education will target registered private grade R centres.

With an allocation of R1.9 billion to early childhood development (ECD) from its budget of R59.7 billion, the Gauteng department of education said on Monday it had offered ECD to more than 164,000 pupils while expanding Grade R to all public primary school pupils, regardless of their socioeconomic status.

The ECD programme was migrated from the department of social development.

Gauteng education MEC Panyanza Lesufi said this would help pupils to grow in an education environment and stop ECD centres being considered as existing to only provide child care.

Lesufi said his department would research the criteria for funding targeted community-based sites offering Grade R.

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He said the department would target registered private grade R centres and provide them with curriculum support and training.

“This is to ensure we don’t have ECD outside the public education space … and provide the relevant transition from grade R to Grade 1 immediately within our education environment,” he said.

National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) director Basil Manuel said while this was welcomed and quite important because it was crucial Grade Rs were part of the basic education, as the law made it such in the Schools Act, it came with its own problems.

Many of these centres were not linked to formal schools and teachers were on varying levels of qualification where some had very basic qualifications.

“These issues will take a long time to fully address,” he said.

With current schools being overcrowded, Manuel said it would take even longer than envisioned to get all Grade Rs into the formal schooling system.

The average number of children enrolled in Grade 1 was in excess of a million, so there should be over a million pupils getting ready for school.

However, that was not the case.

“The reality is every primary school should have the same number of Grade R classes as Grade 1 classes,” he said.

READ MORE: DBE to have hands full dealing with chaotic Early Childhood Development sector

“The number is far under those figures which says we are underestimating the real problem.”

Manuel said a child who had been in Grade R was far better socialised than one who had not and he hoped this programme would succeed.

Lesufi said the department planned on registering private Grade R sites through the introduction of provincial regulations to ensure there was an adequate mix of public, private and community-based sites.

“We will use the ECD programmes registered with the department to determine the number of Grade R [pupils] in private ECD centres.

“This data has not been previously available,” he said.