IMC on Early Childhood Development meets to chart the path forward

Friday, May 3, 2024

A multi-disciplinary grouping of national departments has committed to collaborate strategically to ensure universal access for citizens to comprehensive Early Childhood Development (ECD) services, with a focus on prioritising the nation’s most vulnerable children.

President Cyril Ramaphosa convened the inaugural meeting of the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on ECD recently, which put the wellbeing and development of children in the spotlight.

The objectives of the inaugural meeting was establishing the IMC through an adopted Terms of Reference, clarify the mandates of each department for ECD delivery, agree on proposed priority areas for ECD programmes, and agree on the development and reporting against a joint outcome-based monitoring and evaluation framework for ECD to track progress against proposed priority areas.

The meeting marked a pivotal moment in government’s commitment to providing comprehensive and inclusive ECD services to all South African children, said the Presidency.

During the meeting, President Ramaphosa acknowledged that ECD is the real revolution for the country’s long-term development. 

He said that by investing in children's early years, one is laying the foundation for a brighter and more prosperous future for the nation.

“Moreover, equitable access to comprehensive early childhood development opportunities, is the cornerstone of improved educational outcomes and inclusive economic growth. Progress towards expanding these opportunities, and ensuring that no child is left behind, therefore needs to be early and rapid,” President Ramaphosa said.

The members of the IMC include the Ministers of Basic Education; Health; Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs; Social Development; Higher Education and Training; Employment and Labour; Sport, Arts and Culture; Correctional Services; Home Affairs, Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation; Police and Finance.

During the meeting, the IMC agreed on a collaborative approach to the delivery of ECD services, with the departments represented at the IMC working together to ensure universal access to comprehensive, quality ECD services, with a focus on prioritising the most vulnerable children.

“Several key points were discussed and agreed upon during the meeting, and these include integrated support for children's potential; collaborative approach; and the priorities of the Inter-Ministerial Committee for the next five years, amongst others,” said the Presidency.

On integrated support for children's potential, the IMC emphasised that for children to reach their full potential, they require a range of interconnected and diverse support delivered by various government departments, as well as social sector partners. 

On collaborative approach, the Departments of Basic Education, Health, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Social Development, Higher Education and Training, Labour, Sport, Art and Culture and Correctional Services and Home Affairs will collaborate strategically to ensure universal access to comprehensive ECD services, with a focus on prioritising the most vulnerable children.

The South African Police Service will also play a crucial role by deploying resources and services to ensure the safety and protection of children.

Support from the National Treasury and the Department of Planning, Monitoring, and Evaluation will be vital in enabling these departments to fulfil their mandates.

The IMC for ECD, supported by a Director-General Committee, agreed on the following five priorities:
• Every child to have access to a flexible package of age appropriate, affordable ECD programmes; 
• Improved collaboration between the government departments, provincial departments, and social sector partners;
• Sufficient funding and resourcing to be targeted effectively to the most vulnerable communities;
• A capable ECD workforce to be developed that is well-supported and equipped; and
• To enhance programme quality through appropriate support and monitoring.

The Presidency said the IMC also agreed to the joint development of an outcomes-based framework to track progress on the key outcomes and services that are likely to drive changes in child outcomes, as measured by the Thrive by Five Index – which ensures that learners develop and thrive by the age of five.

The Department of Basic Education will be convening future IMC meetings bi-annually and is committed to working collaboratively with other relevant departments and stakeholders. –