Building the nation with no appreciation: ECD teachers aren’t officially recognised within the NCS
Early childhood development and Grade R teachers aren't formally recognised by the Department of Education, yet they play a crucial role in ensuring children have a strong educational foundation.
"The Union has observed the deliberate delay by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to implement the ANC and NDP directives on the universalisation and formalisation of Early Childhood Development (ECD) and Grade R." - SADTU (iStock)
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In the past month alone we’ve written about three key findings and potential influences on education in South Africa: 

1. 8 out of 10 Grade 4 learners cannot read for meaning, placing SA last out of 50 countries in the recent Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS).

The finding is made worse when considering the level of poverty, as well as the unemployment rate in South Africa. 

We also found that many parents weren’t sitting and reading with their children, with Stats SA revealing close to 50% of parents have actually never read a book with their child

Parents blamed the “idiot box” and screen time for that, but the fact remains that we are discouraging a reading culture while evidently battling a reading crisis.

2. Education Minister, Angie Motshekga, recently proposed a no repeat policy for Grade R to 3.

It makes no “educational sense” and learners who repeat between grade R to three “gain absolutely nothing” explained Angie Motshekga, in her basic education budget vote speech when proposing a no repeat policy. 

But our stance, and that of the many parents, teachers and experts who responded to the proposal, is that getting the basics right and ensuring a strong foundation is crucial to learners succeeding when the going really gets tough from grade 4 on.

3. Alarming stats revealed 63% of children do not attend preschool in SA to ensure a strong foundation phase education to begin with. 

Again, how are we to ensure learners don’t repeat grade 4 – how are we to ensure they don’t repeat grade R to 3 – without a solid foundation?  

On that note, and a fourth, additional point: Early childhood development teachers are not even formally recognised in South Africa. 

Although the Department of Basic Education (DBE) developed the National Curriculum Framework (NCF) to guide early childhood development teachers, parents and caregivers, they haven’t gone as far as making this (early childhood development, specifically) formally part of the National Curriculum Statements (NCS).

While the DBE acknowledges that the first 1000 days of life, from pregnancy to age two, are very, very important in a child’s development, the NCS currently only covers Grades R to 12. 

The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU) says the Department of Basic Education continues to delay the formalisation of Early Childhood Development, undermining the true value of ECD teachers. 

“The wages of Grade R practitioners is a cause for concern when they are doing the most important work in the building of the nation,” explained SADTU in a recent press release. 

“They are subjected to intolerable and abhorrent conditions at the workplace. They work without knowing whether they will receive a salary at the end of the month and without benefits such as UIF and pension.” 

According to Western Cape Education Department spokesperson, Bronagh Hammond, at present, ECD teachers are employed by school governing bodies who are given a stipend. He also commented that the decision to formalise ECD practitioners must be made by the national Education Department. 

Although Minister Motshekga addressed the issues during the election period, according to SADTU, “the Department has not moved an inch”. 

We’ve emailed the Department of Education for comment and await their response.

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