'Pre-schools should be filled with laughter and love, instead they are empty and silent'
"We are destitute, parents are desperate and children are frustrated: they miss school and interaction with their friends and teachers."
"We are destitute, parents are desperate and children are frustrated they miss school and interaction with their friends and teachers"
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The Department of Basic Education has announced that school will begin to re-open from June, but for parents of younger kids who rely on daycare centres to care for their children during the workday this is not helpful news. 

For these families, the upcoming announcement from the Department of Social Development (DSD), which regulates early childhood development centres (ECDs) in South Africa, is the one to watch.

As more parents are able to return to work on Level 4, it's proving near impossible for those who are working from home and caring for younger children.

As for the impact the past 2 months of closures has had on the ECD industry in SA?

Devastating.

For some the lockdown means permanent closure, for others it means skating a fine line between managing parent's expectations, balancing non-payment of fees against teacher salaries, and for a few it means coming close to breaking the law.

Empty and silent

Hendrene Mintchev, owner of an Early Childhood Development Centre in Olivedale, Randburg, mailed to tell Parent24 that her school celebrated their 20th birthday in 2019.

"I have been bringing learning and fun together since 1999 with great success," she told us.

"ECD centres are part of the Department of Social Development and do not fall under the Department of Basic Education. We have had no communication from the DSD or DBE regarding the reopening of our nursery schools."

"Most ECD Centres are privately owned by women and do not receive funding from the Government at all. The Minster of Basic Education urged parents to pay their school fees, how is this possible if they are not earning a salary and how do they pay for a service they are not receiving, as online schooling does not work for toddlers?"

Mintchev said she was fortunate to claim UIF in April for her staff, and a percentage of their salaries was paid out.

"But this is not enough to sustain them, and I am in no position to assist them financially. No guidelines have been issued of what will be expected of us when we are able to reopen, either."

Despite the uncertainty, Mintchev has had the small school sanitised and prepared for re-opening, at her own expense, with the hope that she will be able to reopen soon.

"We are destitute, parents are desperate and children are frustrated: they miss school and interaction with their friends and teachers,"  she told us. "Pre-schools should be filled with laughter and love instead they are empty and silent."  

ECD teachers for hire

This desperation is driving some daycare owners to skirt the law, by offering out their employees as childminders.

One parent shared that she received a letter from her pre-school, that read "I have had to temporarily lay off most of my staff at the baby centre and will be claiming TERS for them. You as parents are allowed to go to the police station and apply for a “clearance and approval” for a nanny at your premises. If there are any of my staff members that you would like to apply for a clearance and allow them to become your baby sitter please do so." 

While technically childminders are allowed to return to work under Level 4, teachers are not. 

Another industry which has taken a knock is the swimming school business. 

Swim schools are drowning

"Swim schools do not have a voice in SA. A forgotten industry, yet we teach a very important life skill specially in SA when drowning is a real reality," Matt Pike, owner of a local swim school Swimmattix, told Parent24

"Fatal drowning is the fifth leading cause of unintentional death in our country, and drowning rates are the highest amount with children between 0 and 4 years," he said. 

This is why he is calling for swimming schools to re-open under Level 4 lockdown regulations. "There is no evidence that the virus which causes Covid-19 can be spread through the use of pools," he says, adding that swim schools will take all necessary precautions to prevent infections.

Not everyone is on the same page, and a reader messaged us to say "As a swim coach myself I do not approve of swim school returning to work. We are not able to wear masks in the pool and we aren't able not to be in contact with the swimmers as they are learn to swim, where they need constant assistance and contact."

What are your thoughts on younger kids going back to school?

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