Anger over exclusion of ECD centres from teacher vaccinations

Early childhood development centre owners say they are “the forgotten sector”

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Photo of a protest

Early childhood development educators, principals, and staff protesting in Steenberg, Cape Town, in May 2021. Archive photo supplied

  • The early childhood development sector is appalled by the Department of Social Development’s silence on the exclusion of its teachers from vaccinations.
  • The sector is already angry over the way Covid-19 relief funds have been distributed.
  • The acting health minister said it was not practical to include ECD staff in the basic education roll out, but plans for vaccinating them are under way.

The early childhood development (ECD) sector says it is appalled by the lack of response by the national Department of Social Development (DSD) over the exclusion of teachers in the sector from Covid-19 vaccines.

On Monday, 28 June, it will be a week since ECD Owners of South Africa sent an open letter to Minister Lindiwe Zulu, the Presidency, and the Department of Basic Education. The DSD is the only one that has not responded to them.

The open letter, which was sent on behalf of ECD centres nationwide, carries the hashtag #TheForgottenSector. It calls on Zulu to urgently “add our incredibly hardworking ECD sector workforce, teachers and staff, to the teacher vaccination rollout”.

The rollout of vaccines for educators and support staff began nationally on Wednesday.

Jennifer McQuillan, of ECD Owners of SA, said, “Schools received wonderful support from their minister and then we have heard absolutely nothing from our minister, because remember ECD centres fall under the DSD.”

GroundUp’s email, texts and numerous calls to different numbers and different people in the DSD, including DSD spokesperson Lumka Oliphant, since Wednesday, have gone unanswered.

Although there has been no response from the DSD, the national health department has confirmed that it is in talks with the departments of social development and higher education about including the ECD sector.

In a statement on Friday, acting health minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said she acknowledged that educators in the ECD sector and the post-schooling system felt left out.

“Work is underway with both the Department of Social Development and Department of Higher Education for their roll out. The sector operates differently from basic education and it was not practically possible to include them as part of the basic education sector programme,” Kubayi- Ngubane’s statement said.

The ECD sector is already up in arms over what it calls the “appalling and virtually non-existent roll out of the employment stimulus relief fund”.

McQuillan said, “When you’re dealing with people where the majority of your principals of the school don’t even have wi-fi, how can you have an online application, that’s number one. Number two, English is my first language but even I found the application confusing and ambiguous.”

“I was actually helping quite a lot of people to apply for funding and what happened was nobody was getting help so a lot of people like myself, rallied together to help out. It was a very long and laborious task and shouldn’t have to be that. There were a lot of technical issues as well. People had to go to internet cafés, spent money because they really wanted this funding.

“We are talking about stand alone ECD centres that are in townships, suburbs, rural areas, informal settlements. We are everywhere throughout the country but we are still the forgotten sector,” said McQuillan.

TOPICS:  Covid-19 Education Health

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