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Hundreds of advocates for young children took to the streets in Johannesburg to call on political parties to prioritize Early Childhood Development

Over 600 advocates for young children marched from Beyers Naude Square in Marshalltown to Constitution Hill in Braamfontein, Johannesburg,this past weekend, calling on all political parties to implement the People’s Manifesto for Early Childhood Development (ECD) in South Africa between 2024 and 2029.
 
Ahead of the general elections on 29 May 2024, Real Reform for ECD assessed the manifestos of 13 political parties to see what they had said about ECD.

 

“Upon reviewing the current political manifesto Real Reform realised that the parts speaking on ECD in these manifestos merely skimmed the surface of the challenges of the ECD sector and the work needed to address these issues. We developed a comprehensive ECD manifesto that recommends solutions that parliament can use in addressing these challenges,” said Tshepo Mantje, ECD coordinator at Equality Collectiveand the Coordinator of the Real Reform for ECD movement.

 
The ECD Manifesto currently has over 5 600 signatures and has been endorsed by over 130 organisations. By signing onto the People’s Manifesto for ECD and joining the march on Saturday 20 April, thousands of advocates for young children across the country have collectively called on political parties to recognise the crucial importance of ECD in shaping the nation’s future.

 

Real Reform for ECD has handed over the ECD Manifesto to the ANC, the DA, the EFF, Rise Mzansi and Action SA and we are awaiting feedback on when we can engage them further.

 

Just a week before the ECD Manifesto march, a pressing issue around nutrition support in Gauteng emerged, further emphasising the need for the implementation of the ECD Manifesto.

 

A recent policy change by the Gauteng Department of Health, which required ECD programmes to be registered to receive nutrition support, left ECD programmes in shock.

 

The policy change abandoned a prior inclusive approach that benefited all ECDs regardless of their registration status, and it came in stark contrast to the ongoing Right to Nutritioncampaign led by the Real Reform for ECDmovement which advocates for universal nutrition rights for all eligible children.

 

“We hope the next parliament will also develop and implement an ECD nutrition programme that can reach all ECD centres including those that are unregistered. We also want the barriers to ECD registration to be reduced so that more centres can be registered and gain access to subsidy. These are areas that can be addressed within the new administration and the roadmap to this is clearly laid out in the Early Childhood Development manifesto,” says Mantje.

  

He says Real Reform for ECD hopes that the newly elected parliament is also able to approve and sign a new Children’s Amendment Bill before the end of 2024, while also increasing the subsidy from R17 per child per day, up to R46 per child per day by 2029.

 

The current government spending on young children is disproportionately low: children aged zero to five make up 10% of the population but, in 2021/22, less than 2% of total government spending went to early learning, family support and early nutrition interventions for children in this age group.

 

The period between 2024 and 2029 is our time to change this. A party for the children is a party for the future!

 

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