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    The sad state of fees

    It is very hard to be the owner of a school in a poor community in South Africa. Even in the ‘City of Gold’ Joburg it is common for parents to pay R100 – 150 for full day care a child. And this always includes a breakfast and lunch. And sometimes a tea time and an afternoon snack. This means parents are paying R5 – R6.50 a day for a pre-school education AND two meals...

    To get registered is very difficult with almost no resources to afford to build an ‘approved’ building and even when the centres are registered often the money is not forthcoming from the government because it has not been budgeted for.

    This means that either the ECD practitioner has to get outside help from Donor bodies or take on far too many children. Which means that children cannot be adequately or properly cared for or appropriately educated. And the thing is this: many parents of these children say they cannot pay more because they don’t work and are surviving on a child care grant of some R210...

    These are my thoughts:

    Pre-school from 3 – 3 ½ can be a positive, useful and happy experience. As long as the centre is safe, has an appropriate pre-school programme and pleasant, child friendly adults.
    Pre-school teaching time is between 8 and 12.30. The afternoon is spent with the children sitting doing nothing with tired, stressed ECD pracs...and the adrenaline levels in children and adults in day care centers gets higher and higher as the day goes on making everyone feel irritable and more aggressive as the ‘fight or flight’ feelings become more apparent with the build up of  adrenaline and cortisol.

    From 0-3 children really need to be in a home environment and do best with a close one to one relationship with a parent, grandparent or even a good child minder. So if they have a parent who does not work the best place is at home. I would like to see these parents/ caregivers  getting support with moms and tots groups where they can learn more about parenting and also share their concerns.

    If there is really no choice the under 3 year old needs to be in a situation where there is a 1-3 baby to adult ratio. (6-1 is the official number). And allowing babies to wander around where 25 older children are swinging and running is a bad idea. They get hurt and are neglected – I have watched how countless times.

    Now back to the fees:

    This are my suggestions:

    1. The RDP/ informal settlement educare centres are small. 25 3-5 year olds are enough. With 3 staff members. OR 12 2-3 year olds, 6 1-2 year olds and 3 babies under a year. With 4 staff members. This number must not be exceeded for the children AND the ECD prac’s sake...
    2. If parents cannot pay the full fees because they do not work they MUST bring the children by 8am (Breakfast time) and fetch their children at 12.45 when all the children have finished lunch. (This means that fewer staff members are needed who need to be paid...)Also those children need to stay at home during school holidays also giving the ECD practitioners an easier time. They also need time off. Looking after small children is stressful.
    3. If parents are working longer hours they can afford to pay more and would then leave their children at school until they fetch them on their way back from work.
    4. Teachers/ ECD practitioners need to get together and decide on what they will offer and what is fair according to money and time. Then they band together to make sure the parents cannot try to push them around.
    5. The ECD pracs and cleaners are working 10 ½ hours a day – for R500 – R1200 a month. This is unacceptable.

    What they could do:

    Owner and cleaner/cook work from 7 am – 2pm. (7hrs)
    Teacher aide arrives at 11 and leaves at 5 after doing some cleaning. Owner or another adult must be on the premises to ensure safety if something should happen but are not working. (Like the teacher or a child gets badly hurt) (6hrs)

    6. December and January are extremely lean months. Older children need school uniforms and people have been put into debt over Christmas.

    What they could do:

    a) Put December fees into the cost of the fees.
    b) Arrange that parents apply for a place the year before and pay a registration fee to help with January but also encourage the parents to bring their children back in January.
    Look at the numbers:
    150x25= 3750 
    Teacher/Owner = 1400
    Teacher Aide = 1200
    Cleaner/ cook = R1000

    R3600 for wages giving the Owner just R150 to do maintenance, buy extra food, cleaning...not very fair...and these are the women looking after children at their most educationally important time- also the time where their personality will be formed...they are forming the next generation – the one you will need to depend on when you are old!
    Raising the fees to between R250 and R300 for those who need full day care and allowing those who cannot pay more than R150 to at least benefit from the food and the pre-school day which is actually just from 8-12.30 will raise the income and the possibility of maintaining the centres better.

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