Children of Plasticview Informal Settlement are left without a creche after the tent which was used as their classrooms was allegedly confiscated by the police. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)
Children of Plasticview Informal Settlement are left without a creche after the tent which was used as their classrooms was allegedly confiscated by the police. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

Millions of SA kids are home with parents, guardians instead of ECD centres

By Bongani Nkosi Time of article published Feb 26, 2021

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Johannesburg - Millions of children in the country did not access early childhood development (ECD) institutions as early as they should have, official data has revealed.

On Thursday, Statistician-General Risenga Maluleke released Statistics SA’s report, titled Children’s Education and Well-Being in South Africa, 2018 Education Series Volume VI.

The report revealed that while it was critical for children under the age of 6 to attend learning institutions to improve their learning ability once they started school, “close to 3.4 million children aged 0-6 years did not attend any ECD programme”.

Attendance peaked at ages 4, 5 and 6, seemingly as children started Grade R.

Stats SA said close to 70% of 4-year-olds, almost 87% of 5-year-olds, and close to 97% of 6-year-olds were attending education institutions.

Gauteng recorded the highest number of 0-6-year-olds attending education institutions. Up to 66.3% of pre-primary schoolchildren in the province accessed ECDs.

With 46.5% of 0-6-year-olds in learning institutions, KwaZulu-Natal had the lowest figure among the nine provinces.

Across the country, seven out of eight children (87.4%) aged 0-6 spent most of their time during the day at home with their parents, foster parents or guardians.

“Although fluctuations seem to be observed over the years, this option is still the most common one for the majority of the children,” said the report.

To add salt to the wound, millions of children were not read to or given drawing books and crayons at home.

“Literacy development during early age requires reading to children at least three times a week,” Stats SA pointed out.

“Close to one-third of children aged 0-6 had someone in the household who often read or told them stories, while four out of 10 children were never read or told stories by someone in the household.”

The ECD access problem were worse among African children, and even worse among those in rural communities.

“White children aged 0-6 were most likely to attend education institutions compared to black African children (73.4% and 56.6%, respectively),” said the report.

“The learning loss incurred due to non-attendance of early childhood education institutions would most likely affect socio-economically disadvantaged children more than it would other children.

“Opportunities to gain access to good quality education have not been equal for all children in South Africa, due to poor infrastructure and lack of well-trained teachers in rural and township schools.”

Parents were not entirely to blame for this state of affairs. Facilities were unavailable and millions of parents had not been conscientised about the importance of sending their toddlers to ECDs.

“Many children have no access to ECD institutions and programmes – not only due to the parents or caregivers not being able to afford to enrol their children in such programmes, but also due to the unavailability of these settings in their areas,” said Stats SA.

“Furthermore, children do not attend ECD institutions and programmes due to lack of parents’ awareness on the importance of early investment in education.”

The Star

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