GEORGE NEWS - Early Childhood Development Centres (ECDs) got the go-ahead to re-open more than a week ago from the North Gauteng High Court.
The Western Cape Minister of Social Development, Sharna Fernandez, said in a press release that the province welcomes the ruling stating that all private and NGO-run ECDs may open, as many parents had to return to work under Alert Level 3 with no alternative care options for their young children, which has placed many children at risk.
"Furthermore, as ECDs remained closed since 18 March, the livelihoods of ECD workers were at stake."
Sue du Toit, director of George Child and Family Welfare, says they have completed their self-assessments, sanitised the buildings and done an assessment on the number of parents who want their children to return, but have not yet officially opened any of their five ECDs.
"We have however been feeding the kids from the centres who come to collect food during the week since lockdown."
Maryna de Vries of Life Community Services also said they have thus far followed all procedures as laid out by the departments of Social Development and Western Cape Education. Currently, 33 of the usual 150 children have returned, but numbers are increasing daily.
"Staff and parents on the most part were delighted. Many parents chose to terminate their contracts till after winter and re-apply then," said De Vries. Due to the small number of children, not all the staff could return to work yet, but those that have, are excited to be working again.
The national Department of Social Development said on one of its social media platforms that they gazetted the directions for the phased reopening of ECD centres across the country.
"Since then, 18 632 ECD centres have undergone self-assessment with close to 1 500 of them having been verified by the department. We anticipate more verifications in the coming weeks, which will allow us to ensure that no child is left behind and, more importantly, that every child is safe."
The Western Cape has also thought of creative ways to teach young children about personal safety during these Covid-times. They use the ABC's of safety - A is for atchoo, to always cover when you sneeze; B is for bubble, to pretend you're in your own bubble where only you can touch the edges; C is for clean hands and D says don't touch your face, mouth or nose without washing your hands.
Fernandez said that the national Department of Social Development has already drafted directions setting out safety measures for the reopening of ECDs. She asked all the centres that intend to re-open, to abide by the ECD operating protocols and guidelines which can be found on the department's website.
These measures include extensive safety training for staff, daily screening and handwashing on arrival for both staff and children, staggered arrival times per age group, and age-appropriate education of children about Covid-19. "While I welcome the judgment, ECD operators must prioritise the health and safety of the children in their care."
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