Crèche owners protest at Parliament, demanding outstanding grants

Early childhood development centres want all money paid out by the end of the month

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Educators and owners of early childhood development centres protested at Parliament on Thursday, demanding the payment of outstanding money from the Covid relief fund set up for them in 2021. Photo: Mary-Anne Gontsana

Early childhood development (ECD) centres have given the Department of Social Development until the end of March to pay out all outstanding money from the Covid relief fund. The Early Childhood Development Stimulus Relief Fund, set up in 2021 to assist centres with the impact of the Covid pandemic, allows for a once-off payment of R4,186 per staff member.

About 100 ECD owners and educators protested outside Parliament on Thursday, demanding that the Department of Social Development (DSD) be held accountable. They asked President Cyril Ramaphosa and Parliament’s Social Development Portfolio Committee to ensure that the funds are not “lost” by the end of the financial year.

GroundUp reported last month that many ECD centres were yet to be paid Covid relief funds and according to the Centre for Early Childhood Development (CECD), at least 7,000 ECD staff members out of nearly 13,000 are yet to be paid in the Western Cape.

Wearing yellow T-shirts, the protesters, from Cape Town, Pretoria and Worcester, waved placards written “DSD has failed the ECD sector”, “DSD are you listening” and “Pay now before it’s too late”, while they burst into song.

Theodora Lutuli, principal of two centres in Nyanga and provincial chairperson of the South African Congress for Early Childhood Development, said: “Many people have closed their centres, lost their jobs, and a lot of children have been out of ECD centres. That is why today we have mobilised.”

Nomonde Vusi, who owns Eyona Educare in Nyanga East, said keeping her crèche open was a struggle. She said the crèche catered to poor families, not all of whom could pay fees. “Most of the parents are either teenagers that still attend school, or those who get piece jobs and do not have permanent work.” She said she had 40 children in her crèche and four staff members who sometimes had to go months without getting paid.

According to their memorandum, over R250 million is owed to the ECD workers who applied for the relief funding. They demanded that all outstanding funds must be paid by 31 March.

CECD’s advocacy and social justice manager Yusrah Ehrenreich said that the sector “desperately” needed the funds.

The memorandum was signed and accepted by DSD Chief of Staff, Abram Phahlamohlaka, Portfolio Committee member Alexandra Abrahams and Presidency representative Charles Ford.

Addressing the protesters, Phahlamohlaka said the demands were “loud and clear” and he could “guarantee” that Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu was aware of the protest and was “expecting the memorandum”. “The minister will hold the department accountable to ensure that your reasonable demands are met,” said Phahlamohlaka.

TOPICS:  Covid-19 Education

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