The Early Childhood Development (ECD) sector in South Africa has appealed to the government to extend the ECD relief fund application deadline by two weeks.
In a statement on Thursday, Colleen Daniels-Horswell, spokesperson of the C-19 People’s Coalition’s ECD & Basic Education Working Group, said the two-week deadline for workers to complete the application process is too short.
ECD relief fund
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the ECD Employment Stimulus Relief Fund in October last year. It is aimed at providing income support to ECD practitioners affected by the impact of COVID-19.
Daniels-Horswell said the stimulus package is “going to miss the mark” because it must be paid out in less than six weeks before the financial year ends on 31 March 2021. Furthermore, the deadline for applications ends on Friday, 19 February 2021.
She added, “The ECD Employment Stimulus Relief Fund will not reach the targeted 108,833 ECD workers if the Department of Social Development does not extend the application deadline. An additional two weeks is requested, pushing the deadline to Friday, 5 March 2021.
“Given the unnecessarily complex and onerous process, the current two weeks which were given is not sufficient for ECD workers to complete an online application.”
The sector further called on the government to address the bureaucratic challenges ECD principals are facing while applying for funding, “a process which is currently exclusionary in nature for the most impoverished communities.”
“The majority of ECD principals/owners only have time to apply for this relief at night or over the weekend because they are operating centres and programmes with reduced staff members because of not being able to pay salaries,” Daniels-Horswell explained, adding that the Central Supplier Database registration system “goes down for maintenance after 7pm on most days.”
Other challenges the sector identified include:
- DSD has failed in disseminating the information to all ECD services especially the most vulnerable.
- Applications are done via a digital application platform only, excluding those without internet access.
- The two application platforms (the Central Supplier Database registration and govchat process) are predominately in English and use unfamiliar terminology.
- The requirement to have a bank account in the name of the ECD centre/programme excludes the majority of ECD services that operate on a cash basis or have a bank account in an individual’s name.
- Possible sanctions and forced registrations are exclusionary and bureaucratic.
- The limit of four staff members for ECD centres and one staff member for non-centre based ECD programmes to determine the funding per centre/programme is far too little.
- unregistered ECD centres and programmes that operate in the poorest wards but are not on the Vangasali database are likely to lose out on funding in case the number of applications exceeds the funding available.
- The current ECD stimulus package of R496 million is insufficient.
- The requirement for unfunded ECD services to be loaded on the Central Supplier Database (CSD) is complicated, inappropriate, and unnecessary.
Daniels-Horswell said as of 15 February 2021, out of 29,836 ECD principals/owners who had started the application process, only 9,717 people had successfully completed their applications.
“What is worse is that the ECD stimulus package aims to pay 108,833 ECD workers, but only 46,661 – or 43 percent of the targeted ECD workers – have been registered so far to receive this funding. This is shockingly low,” she added.
Without the proposed changes, the ECD relief fund is unlikely to reach workers who desperately need the assistance, Daniels-Horswell concluded.