Pre-school teachers march for better education

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Hundreds of pre-school teachers took to central Cape Town’s streets yesterday to demand government’s support to improve children’s education.

About 600 teachers, all Western Cape members of the national South African Congress Early Childhood Development (SACECD), walked to Parliament to hand over a memorandum outlining their concerns and demands.

A few hundred members of the Western Cape chapter of the South African Congress Early Childhood Development that marched to Parliament in central Cape Town yesterday to highlight their challenges. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

A few hundred members of the Western Cape chapter of the South African Congress Early Childhood Development that marched to Parliament in central Cape Town yesterday to highlight their challenges. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

SACECD represents 1,500 pre-school centres in the province, which prepares 250,000 children for primary school.

Its memorandum raises “numerous concerns and complaints from its members” and was addressed to the departments of social development, health and education.

Randall van den Heever, a director at the national department of basic education, signed receipt of the document. He said the department would respond in 14 days.

“I’m going to submit the memorandum to the department and minister,” said Van den Heever.

SACECD provincial chairwoman Augusta Brandt said early childhood development (ECD) centres were a “public good” but government was not assisting them.

ECD sector challenges include ensuring that teachers have access to relevant qualifications at an affordable cost.

Vanessa Fourie, who teaches children at the Hanover Park Daycare Centre, holds up her poster at a march for better education yesterday. She was among a few hundred members of the Western Cape chapter of the South African Congress Early Childhood Development that marched to Parliament. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

Vanessa Fourie, who teaches children at the Hanover Park Daycare Centre, holds up her poster at a march for better education yesterday. She was among a few hundred members of the Western Cape chapter of the South African Congress Early Childhood Development that marched to Parliament. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

Most ECD centres in low income areas operate independently and parents of children at these centres are often unable to pay school fees. This meant teachers were often unable to afford upgrading their qualifications.

SACECD’s memorandum recommends that government should “reinstate NGOs to deliver qualification training” for ECD teachers.

“Recognition of prior learning and skills to access further qualifications,” is another recommendation.

SACECD wants government’s assistance to subsidise fees for children and make more sites available in areas where needed. It also wants “funding for toy libraries”.

SACECD adds: “The decision by the department of education to re-allocate all Grade R classes from ECD independent sites to primary schools without consultation and devoid of consideration of the quality work being done, led to ECD practitioners losing employment status.”

Fazlyn Ajam, who runs an ECD centre in Heideveld, said local government officials also needed to make it easier for teachers to register pre-schools.

“You have to apply with the City of Cape Town when you want to open a crèche. The criteria for zoning is ridiculous,” said Ajam.

Melissa Jacobs, who works at an ECD centre in Hanover Park, said government should assist them because “we are developing the brain of a child”.

“We are teaching a child to reach higher goals and heights. Government should empower them too because that is the future of this country,” said Jacobs.

Jacobs said most qualified teachers left the ECD sector to teach at primary schools because salaries were low at pre-schools.

“Our schools are training teachers and then they leave. We can’t pay them,” said Jacobs.

“They would rather work at a government school to get a better salary.”

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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