Two years later: Over a thousand crèches still not paid Covid relief funds

“We are now in 2022 and not even 60% have been paid” says ECD principal

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About 50 early childhood development (ECD) centre owners and educators protest outside the Foundation for Community Works in Athlone, demanding to be paid outstanding relief funds. Photo: Mary-Anne Gontsana

  • Early childhood development (ECD) centre owners and educators protested on Thursday for their outstanding stimulus relief funds.

  • A foundation was contracted by the Western Cape Government as an intermediary organisation to assist ECDs with the verification and payment process of the funds.

  • On Thursday the Foundation’s director told protesters that the “challenging” application process had caused several delays.

  • The Western Cape Education Department says 1,600 ECDs have been paid and 1,667 are yet to be paid. Over R25-million has been paid out.

About 50 early childhood development (ECD) centre owners and educators protested outside the Foundation for Community Works (FCW) building in Athlone on Thursday. They are demanding to be paid outstanding ECD stimulus relief funds.

The Foundation is contracted by the Western Cape Government as an intermediary organisation to assist ECDs with the verification and payment process of the funds.

The Early Childhood Development Stimulus Relief Fund was set up in 2021 to assist centres with the impact of the Covid pandemic. The once-off payment is R4,186 per staff member.

Dressed in yellow and black, the protesting educators, some of whom came from as far as Kayamandi in Stellenbosch and Worcester, held up placards as they sang outside the Foundation’s gates. The protest was organised by the South African Congress for ECDs.

Theodora Lutuli, principal of two ECD centres in Nyanga and provincial chairperson of the Congress, said they have been fighting for the funds to be paid since 2020.

“At the time there was no criteria given [about who would be receiving the funds], as long as those people were in your employ and lost their income. When we went into lockdown, parents did not pay fees so practitioners had nothing to live on. We are now in 2022 and not even 60% have been paid,” she said.

Lutuli said they just wanted answers from the Foundation and the state on what has delayed payments to all beneficiaries.

GroundUp reported in May that more than 1,700 ECDs in the Western Cape have still not received their Covid relief funds - and there was no time frame for when these payments are to be completed.

On Thursday, the group handed their memorandum to the Foundation’s director Riedewhaan Allie. He told protesters that the “challenging” application process had caused several delays.

Allie described aspects of this complicated process to the protesters. It is dependent on multiple institutions for a payment to be approved and paid.

“Up to this point, we have paid just over 6,000 applicants and about 1,100 preschool centres. … We have tried to … and process as many payments as we could,” said Allie.

“I apologise that you believe that we are sitting on the money. We are not. We are trying to make sure and expedite the process of ensuring that every practitioner benefits from the relief stimulus fund. We have nothing to hide,” said Allie.

In May the Western Cape Education Department told GroundUp that 1,717 ECDs were yet to be paid and 1,550 sites had been paid over R25-million in total.

Department spokesperson, Bronagh Hammond, said, “As of 24 June, there are 1,600 ECDs that have been paid, with 1,667 yet to be paid. Over R25-million has been paid out to individual practitioners. An additional 522 sites have been processed and will be paid in July.”

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TOPICS:  Covid-19 Education

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