Where Will Our Children Go?
Big Issue|Issue 288
Theodora Lutuli, an early childhood education manager in Nyanga, reveals the hidden cracks in the country’s early childhood development sector.

I was born and raised in Nyanga, Cape Town, and as a child, I enjoyed the company of other children. In 1985 my mom started an educare centre (Khanyisa Nursery School) where children could be safe, receive a nutritious meal, and learn in the process. It expanded to become Inkwenkwezi Educare Centre in 1997 due to an increase in children wanting to attend.

The impact of the pandemic on what is now my early childhood development (ECD) centre and staff, has been terrible! My centre is not government-funded and is solely dependent on fees as a source of income. You can imagine if parents are unemployed and do not have an income; they cannot afford to pay fees for their children, which range between R200 and R300.

My fear now is that if we do open, how many people will be available because some teachers have had no income since March. I would not be surprised if they looked for work outside of the ECD sector. This is a loss for the sector because some of them have been trained and have the skills but cannot be without an income.

The long-term impact of the pandemic is that most people would not be able to return to “normal”. Their normal has been phased out. You build your ECD centre up over so many years to get it to be at a level where it is now, and starting over would really mean starting from scratch. Some people may not be able to do that. My fear is this: what is going to happen to the masses, those children who are used to being in an educare centre, when these facilities are no longer there? Whether we like it or not, ECD is part of the foundation of a child’s life. It is where we build and develop children. It is where we ensure that by the time they get to primary school level, they succeed there. Grade 1 teachers then have a level from which they can start off, as opposed to starting from scratch with children from homes without any foundation of ECD. School dropouts will increase if that foundation, which we have been fighting for for years, is no longer there.

EXPOSING INEQUALITIES

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