Ways to improve the well-being of babies and toddlers in care establishments in Durban was discussed at a workshop involving UKZN along with provincial and local government office holders, researchers, crèche managers, teachers and parents.
The participants were brought together by the Programme to Support Pro-Poor Policy Development (PSPPD), funded by the European Union and the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation in the Presidency through a grant awarded to the Project Preparation Trust (PPT) in 2015.
PPT partnered with UKZN academics and education and training NGO, Tree, to map the existence, quality and needs of nurseries and crèches across the municipality’s informal settlements with the objective of encouraging registration and upgrading.
Professor Sarah Bracking of the School of Built Environment and Development Studies said: ‘While Government has an impressive policy of registering early childhood care facilities (day care, crèches, nurseries, and early childhood development centres) into gold, silver and bronze standard in order to provide resources to assist them, our research unfortunately shows that many facilities in informal settlements are not registered and cannot realistically meet the criteria for doing so.’
According to Bracking, the key stumbling blocks to registration are land tenure, ownership and planning regulations in respect of informal settlements. Due to this, up to 97% of children in settlements, such as Amaoti, remain unregistered and thus unassisted by Government.
‘Some centres also have health hazards and infrastructure challenges, such as lack of secure roofs, fences to separate the centres from roads, and lack of water, sanitation and food. The good news is that this project surveyed them all and then produced case studies of how some centres could be rapidly improved and made safe,’ said Bracking.
Renovation was the most economical option, rather than spending scarce resources on new buildings.
‘For under R5 000 a child, most centres could be made safe and healthy. Fortunately, many eThekwini centres assessed in the research are keen to get assistance and support.’
Workers from the centres, who were present at the workshop, were awarded certificates by Tree for having completed extensive staff training programmes on how to stimulate the learning of children with few toys or resources as well as how to ensure sanitary conditions with tippy taps and hand washing. Delegates from Government and the University were moved by the commitment of the workers and pledged to assist them further.
Bracking believes early childhood development ‘needs strong collaboration between the Departments of Environmental Health, Traditional Settlements, Education and most importantly the Provincial Treasury and City Management in order to be voted the monetary resources to succeed.’
She further argues that no child should become an ‘unfunded commitment’ as neglect in the early years can lead to proven and lifelong health vulnerabilities.