Working with assumptions based on the results from the pilot study in UGU, when the information management system (IMS) project on ECD massification got under way in Zululand, UMzinyathi, Umkhanyakude and the remaining UGU service offices, it was expected that around 500 sites (combined figure) could be identified in the four districts. However, the reality of the volume ECD centres functioning as not-for-profit community based centres started to become apparent about half way through the project. This figure is currently stands at over 800 ECD centres in the process for partial care registration. A limited number of these are private sites and the majority are community based centres in mostly rural, but also peri-urban or location areas in Kwa-Zulu Natal (KZN).
There has been a lot discussion in the past month about infrastructure, much of this relating to infrastructure categorisation framework being done by Project Preparation Trust (PPT) but also due to the conditional infrastructure grant that is due to be released by the department of social development in the new year. Some newly registered ECD centres were put forward to be considered for this grant. For the majority of ECD centres, throughout the district, infrastructure deficiencies form part of, or are in fact the only reason why centres fail to reach full registration. Perhaps second to that is lack of or limited teacher Part of the purpose of the ECD massification is to demonstrate to the “powers that be”, the extent of the need and number of ECD centres that are functioning in KZN.
Since I am based in UGU, it doesn’t really feel like the end of anything. But as I travel up to UMkhanyakude for the last time (in this project period), reflection is an inevitable task. Although I was in the middle of nowhere, although it was very rural, although the weather was extremely hot, although the service offices were spread out so far and wide, there are certainly a number of thing I will miss about that district. I will miss the ease, energy and openness of most social workers who worked closely on the project. I will miss those amazing days when I would see a tower of giraffe casually strolling across the R22 road or spot my friend the elephant and a baby rhino eating some grass with its mother. Finally, I will miss the magnificent sunset from my cottage door step.
Visits into the Umkhanyakude communities to see ECD centres have not been an easy task (logistically) so the opportunity to do this for the purpose of the case study was a welcomed activity on my part. The first time (22 June) we tried to venture out into Umhlabuyalingana local municipality, serviced in part by Kwangwanase service office, we were deterred by mountains of sand, or what felt like mountains for my little hatchback. The second trip (26 July) was more successful and even the heavy downpours, massive puddles and slippery gravel roads could not dampen the trip. In preparation for our arrival, the chair person of the creche committee, (we called her Gogo – Granny in Zulu) and her team, prepared lunch, had unusually large (and delicious) bananas and presented us with “icansi” – traditional Zulu mats – that Gogo hand made herself. The kids were thrilled to have visitors amongst them and although it was difficult for them to contain their excitement, they were all very well behaved and as far as possible, carried on as if we weren’t there.