The Early Childhood Development (ECD) sector is under strain – Lauren McGill, Programme Director, The Kamvalethu Foundation

Ilifa Labantwana undertook a survey of 8500 ECD providers in April to explore the particular challenges this sector is facing. The government relief efforts have been targeted towards people and organisations within the government systems, ECD largely falls outside this scope. Only 35% of the ECD workforce is UIF registered; 99% of ECD centres have reported that caregivers have stopped paying school fees and a staggering 68% of centres are concerned they will not be able to re- open their doors after lockdown.

The Kamvalethu Response

Very early on we reached out to our project partners to assure them of our funding and support. This is important as many NPO’s are suffering huge losses at this time. Social development initiatives are often the first areas individuals and businesses cut their spend.

We then opened up additional funding specifically for relief efforts related to COVID-19, which has been well received. As a Foundation we do not ordinarily support short-term relief efforts, preferring to think strategically and look for the long term gains. However, this crisis is not business as usual and we would be foolish to continue on as per normal.

Every week we are connecting with funders in South Africa and globally to share learnings and discuss the various responses. The common response up until now has been short term, the conversation is starting to shift to a longer term view and we are actively a part of these discussions.

Our resource sharing network continues to be a support to our partners, with much rich information being shared.

Our website has been updated with our response to COVID-19 and pointing people towards the SA government as per their directives.

The Montessori Eastern Cape Hub 

All five preschools within our Montessori Eastern Cape Hub received substantial food and hygiene parcels this month. The children all receive two nutritious meals per day from school and for many, these were the only wholesome meals they received in a day. The remote location of our project partners necessitated the food parcel model of assistance as opposed to vouchers- which would require travel.

The parents were very happy and grateful to receive these food parcels and the most common comment was “Uyanceda kakuhlu” – You are helping us so much! The additional social security measures (increased child support grant) announced by President Ramaphosa on the 21st April will hopefully extend to this community. Time will tell.

We have also begun talking about how to provide some educational stimulation and support to families at home. Unfortunately, less than half of the caregivers have Whatsapp or a smart phone, which makes ICT learning challenging.

We are exploring how we can best meet these needs together, knowing our lives and learning are likely to be fundamentally changed moving forward.