By Sinazo Mqalo: 11 September 2017
Skills learnt during early childhood development are arguably the most valuable skills one will learn throughout their life. The people we are today are shaped by our contact and experience as infants. Children learn from what they see around them, and much of this learning happens in the home environment, but not surprisingly a significant amount of that learning takes place at school.
Parents are demanding an environment where an E.C.D can foster qualities of autonomy, competency & responsibility in their children, and subsequently develop them into creative thinkers and problem solvers. Frequent cases of child abuse has also driven parents to seek out schools that have smaller classes, and that they can rely on to monitor and provide adequate care for each child.
Early childhood development centers (ECD’s) serve a vital role in the making of future generations. But many ECD across the country are struggling to access aid and support from the state & their municipalities. One of the biggest challenges facing ECD centres, many of which are located in informal communities, is registration with the Department of Social Development (DSD). The registration process is complex and lengthy, and the norms and standards that need to be met are inconsiderate of the local context in which many of the schools find themselves. Often registration is unattainable as the costs associated with complying with regulation are outside of the budget of the schools, who charge parents a very nominal fee, so that they can provide affordable care.
This year, policy was amended in a way that made the ECD registration that much more difficult, and now the City of Cape Town requires that ECD’s applying for registration comply with national building regulations and relevant zoning schemes, and in the process make a land use application. With that being said, institutions have no hope of meeting the norms and standards because most informal areas have no title deeds, which clearly hinders the land use application.
As is the case for Nomkhaya’s ECD in Vuku’zenzele. Nomakhaya relies on the early learning subsidy provided by the DSD to finance the running of the ECD. But application for the subsidy needs to made every year, and this year registration seemed impossible.
Vuku’zenzele is a community-built neighborhood in Phillipi, and like many Housing Projects like it, residents were not provided with formal title, nor were they made aware of the building restrictions relevant to their plots. As a result, residents have extended and upgraded their homes in response to their needs, but in doing so, many have exceeded their building limits, and understandably, not applied for the relevant removal of restrictions.
PEP has been engaged with Vuku’zenzele for over 5 years while working to deliver residents with title deeds. In the process, all building line infringements and disputes needed to be resolved, subdivisions made and the title of the land to be transferred from uTshani Fund, a credit mechanism for Housing Savings Schemes, into the hands of rightful residents. In order to process the land use application for Nomakhaya’s ECD, uTshani, as title deed holder, and PEP needed to creatively problem solve in order that Nomakhaya’s application be processed.
Thankfully, PEP was able to submit a temporary application that will be enough for the ECD to register for this year, but once Nomakhaya receives her title deed, the relevant applications for relaxation of title restrictions, building line infringements & re-zoning will have to be made.
Cases like Nomkahaya are far from uncommon, but how many receive the attention required to register? These schools can not rely indefinitely on intermediaries to work the system. Schools do not have the time nor financial support to wait to receive their formal title, and in the mean time, the registration process needs to streamlined so that institutions that are providing a safe and nurturing space for future generations, can receive the support they so need.