Monday marked the start of a week-long national protest (17 to 21 August) by members of the Early Childhood Development (ECD) community and supporters of their plight.
They are protesting against the announcement made by Department of Social Development (DSD) Minister, Lindiwe Zulu on 30 July 2020. Minister Zulu stated that R1.3 billion out of the President’s Covid-19 economic stimulus package would be allocated to the short term employment of 36 000 youth compliance monitors for ECD programmes. An illogical allocation when without urgent financial aid, more than 175 000 long-term ECD workforce jobs are likely to be decimated as a result of the pandemic and the national lockdown.
These jobs belong to the people (mostly women) working in some 30 000 ECD centres across the country, which without support are set to close their doors permanently. In addition, almost 1 million children will be affected by the closure of these centres and one million other jobs that depend on access to childcare will be affected indirectly.
R1.3 billion has the potential to sustain over 175 000 jobs long-term jobs mostly pioneered by women entrepreneurs at the community level. Jobs are at risk of being lost forever if urgent support for the ECD workforce is not forthcoming.
The C-19 People’s Coalition- ECD Work Stream has been campaigning for the ECD workforce to receive support from the DSD to ensure its continuity from the start of the lockdown. On the 7th of August a letter was sent to the Hon. Minister Zulu asking for a meeting and calling on her to redirect the R1.3bn to support the ECD workforce directly and to disburse these funds in the form of ECD Continuity Grants. Since then, thousands of members of the ECD workforce have sent her emails requesting the same thing. To date they have received no responses nor an acknowledgement of receipt. On 13 August 2020 they sent a follow up letter to the Minister and have yet to receive a reply.
As part of the campaign the Coalition launched a petition (https://www.change.org/SaveOurECD) that in less than a week gathered close to 10 000 signatories, asking the Minister to redirect this money to save the ECD workforce.
With their efforts so far having yielded no response from the DSD, they are now launching a National Week of Protest (17 to 21 August). During this week members of the ECD workforce and supporters will be participating in digital/online and in-person pickets across the country to increase the pressure on Minister Zulu to respond.
Anyone wanting to join is welcome and participants are being asked to make posters featuring the hashtag #SAVEOURECDWORKFORCE and “175 000 JOBS” with a personal message to Minister Zulu. They are being encouraged to take pictures of themselves with their posters and to share these images on social media platforms using the hashtag #SAVEOURECDWORKFORCE. The group has been purposeful about encouraging those who will be participating in ‘street pickets’ to comply with Covid-19 regulations. These regulations state, among other instructions, that pickets should not exceed 15 persons at any one time and that 1.5m physical distancing must be practiced at all times.