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NATU welcomes the Early Childhood Development Function Shift

Statement issued by the Office of the Acting President, Mr S.V. Malinga.

Image source: Business Day

President Cyril Ramaphosa in his February 2019 State of the Nation Address announced that the responsibility for Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centres would be migrated from the Department of Social Development to the Department of Education. NATU would like to give a round of applause to the Minister of Basic Education Mrs Angie Motshekga and the Minister of Social Development Ms Lindiwe Zulu for the prompt implementation of the migration.

NATU acknowledges that children aged 0-5 who have participated in ECD Programmes tend to be more successful in school, are more competent socially and emotionally and show better verbal, intellectual and physical development during early childhood than those who had not, therefore NATU is especially happy with the Function Shift as it will ensure structured learning in the ECD sector because the DBE will now manage the educational journey from the play-based learning to their final paper in the National Senior Certificate (NSC).

It is one of the aims of the Union to fight for the wellbeing of practitioners, this includes conditions of service. NATU will therefore be closely monitoring the renumeration of the practitioners now that they are under the DBE as opposed to DSD, salaries will have to be paid monthly. Funding for the day to day running of the ECDs including human resources and material resources will have to be available. Infrastructure used by the ECDs will be monitored, especially those in informal settlements and rural areas, focusing mainly on water and sanitation in these areas. NATU would also like to encourage the DBE to include the ECD practitioners in Developmental Programmes so that they are in line with SACE and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).

Current State of Grade R Practitioners

As we welcome the ECD function shift, NATU is still concerned about the conditions of services of Grade R practitioners in schools. Since 1998, when Grade R was first integrated into mainstream schooling (GET), NATU has been in the forefront in fighting for the improvement of salaries and benefits. Grade R practitioners, to-date, are still struggling to be employed without White Paper 5. They still receive a stipend and are without benefits such as permanent posts, housing allowance, 13th cheque and medical aid. They still do not contribute to the pension fund and thus will retire without benefits.

NATU applauds the Provinces of Gauteng and Eastern Cape who have recently converted and absorbed professionally qualified Grade R practitioners into mainstream posts and now form part of the Post Provisioning Norms (PPN), whilst other provinces remain behind with professionally qualified Grade R practitioners still eagerly awaiting to be absorbed. As we record the history of this function shift, NATU observes the inequality in the payment of Grade R practitioner’s stipends by Provinces. NATU calls on the Department of Basic Education to regulate the employment of Grade R practitioners to minimize the brutal neglect by Provincial Departments.

NATU wishes all the ECD Centres the best as they are migrated to the Department of Education.