Government’s aim to achieve universal access to early learning by 2030 is bleak considering the budget that is allocated to the sector.
In his 2022 Budget speech in February, Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana said there will be an increase of 1.7% in funding for the early childhood development (ECD) sector, which has one of the lowest growth rates in the Basic Education budget.
SmartStart, a social franchise that aims to expand access to quality early learning in South Africa, has expressed its dissatisfaction with the low budget for ECD. In a statement, SmartStart acting CEO Sane Mdlalose said they support government’s goals on ECD but are unhappy with the current budget.
Mdlalose said: “If year-on-year budget increases stay at the current level, as a country, this goal is off track. To realise this vision, we need to see a significant increase in budget allocations for ECD.”
Godongwana mentioned in the Budget speech that for the 2022/23 financial year, R1.1-billion has been set aside to provide for and increase the number of children accessing subsidised ECD services.
Of this, R97.9-million is allocated for maintenance improvements to support ECD providers and to pilot the construction of new, low‐cost ECD centres. This represents an average growth rate of 1.7% below inflation and one of the lowest growth rates in the Basic Education budget.
Access to early learning programmes, particularly in under-serviced communities, is limited for several reasons, including the complex legislation processes involved in setting them up.
“To register an early learning programme, the building you use must meet certain requirements. This can make it difficult for those in informal and other low-income communities to register and receive subsidies from government. As a result, children are left out,” added Mdlalose.
Reports say in April, the ECD sector will move to the Department of Basic Education.
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