What does the law say about non-compliant Early Childhood Development Centres in South Africa?

Early Childhood Development Centres in South Africa play a pivotal role in the early lives of children. Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres are entrusted with a huge responsibility of taking care of children’s holistic development while under their care in areas such as general health, nutrition, physical development, psychological wellbeing, social development and other needs. It is for this reason that South African law requires that all ECD’s are registered and compliant by law.

The procedure for registering and operating a childcare facility is comprehensively covered in the Children’s Amendment Act 2007 (published in the Government Gazette, 18 March 2008).

Children’s Amendment Act 2007 stipulates norms and standards for early childhood development centres which includes a safe environment for children, proper care for sick children or children that become ill, adequate space and ventilation, safe drinking water, hygienic and adequate toilet facilities, safe storage of anything that may be harmful to children, access to refuse disposal services or other adequate means of disposal or refuse generated at the facility, a hygienic area for the preparation of food for children, measures  for the separation of children of different age groups, drawing up of action plans for emergencies and the drawing up of policies and procedures regarding health care at the facility, as well as employing people who are trained in child care and provide training to persons employed at the facility.

This implies that ECDs which are not compliant and operating outside the confines of the law can be closed immediately by the Department of Social Development. A provincial head of social development may cancel the registration or conditional registration of an early childhood development centre by written notice if, the programme is not run in accordance with the prescribed national norms and standards stipulated in section 94, if any condition subject to which the registration or renewal of registration was issued is breached or not complied with, if the registration holder becomes a person who is not a fit and proper person to provide an early childhood development centre. The law also provides for early childhood development centre owners and care givers to be held criminally liable for harm caused to children if negligence and illegality is proven in a court of law.

It is also important to emphasise that any person who on reasonable grounds believes an early childhood development centre is operating in a non-compliant manner should report such to the nearest police station or the Department of Social Development.

For early childhood development centre managers and practitioners, the best way to avoid legal penalties and possible closure of their centres is to ensure ECD centres are transformed from non-compliant to compliant status. There is also a need to invest in specialised training programmes in early childhood development and the management of programmes and facilities for young children. This training needs to be of an ongoing nature.

For more information on current and relevant ECD training programmes, click through http://www.ecdupliftmentprojects.co.za/#contact.

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