Early start: Learning Chinese characters at a kindergarten. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/AFP/XIA YU GZ
Early start: Learning Chinese characters at a kindergarten. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/AFP/XIA YU GZ

The shambles that is early childhood education (ECD) in SA continues, highlighted by your report about the funding crisis and closure of ECD centres in the Eastern Cape (“Eastern Cape ECD centres face onslaught from provincial government”, July 29).

This was just five months after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced in his state of the nation address a move towards “two years of compulsory ECD for all children”. The latest promise seems to fall into the same category as the pledge a decade ago to bring 1-million more children into grade R between 2001 and 2004. 

There is no mention of what sort of ECD is envisaged or what training is required for educators and how it will be provided. What ECD training exists is provided largely by the NGO sector, which relies heavily on donor funding. 

Despite agreeing publicly that ECD produces the greatest social and economic benefit for society, the government continues to treat this crucial sector in a blundering and parsimonious way. About 2-million children aged three to five, most of them poor, will thus be deprived of a preschool experience. 

As acclaimed early learning specialist Kathy Sylva has pointed out, this is “like tying their hands behind their backs” for the rest of their school days.

Barbara and Terry Bell
Cape Town