Working with key government departments, Ilifa Labantwana has developed the Essential Package of ECD Services and Support – a “foundation document” that will underlie a dramatic shift in the way that early childhood services and support are delivered to vulnerable children in South Africa.
Since its entry into the ECD arena in 2007, Ilifa Labantwana has pursued the goal of mainstreaming and scaling-up the provision of integrated ECD services and support to South Africa’s most vulnerable children. But the multi-sectoral nature of ECD is challenging, and while South Africa has a number of important policy commitments to children in the early childhood period, many of the enabling mechanisms for integrated service provision are not yet in place. Capacity to manage and deliver ECD services within government and the non-profit sector is limited and fragmented, with multiple levels of decision-making and execution retarding both policy and programme implementation.
In this context, civil society organisations have played an important role in the provision of ECD services and support. But the civil society ECD sector also has its challenges, exacerbated by diminishing funding. These contextual challenges have informed Ilifa’s strategy. Working within the existing policy framework, Ilifa has chosen to collaborate with both the public sector and civil society to achieve its aims. The Ilifa strategy has been to develop a holistic model of intervention in collaboration with all the key stakeholders and role-players in the ECD sector.
After several years of research and stakeholder engagement, an integrated package of ECD services and support – the “Essential Package” – has been developed, consisting of five basic Components: Nutritional Support, Primary Level Maternal and Child Health Interventions, Social Services, Support for Primary Caregivers, and Stimulation for Early Learning.
Key to the success of this initiative is the development of consensus amongst all key stakeholders on the components of the Essential Package. With the necessary input from stakeholders, Ilifa aims to build a case for simultaneously expanding public funding while increasing public demand for ECD.
This document is designed for use by a range of stakeholders including those wishing to monitor and track early childhood interventions. It is intended to contribute to a shared understanding of what is meant by essential ECD services, presented in a language and mode of expression with which all stakeholders are comfortable. It is hoped, through this intervention, that all those involved in ECD work in South Africa will come to see themselves as belonging to a shared “community of practice” in the interests of young children.
The Essential Package is designed for use by a range of stakeholders, including those wishing to monitor and track early childhood interventions. It serves to define those ECD services that are considered essential for vulnerable children, to categorise these services in the most useful way, and to formulate Indicators of Service Delivery to enable programme managers, departmental officials, service providers and other stakeholders to monitor access to these essential services amongst the country’s most vulnerable children.
The Essential Package also takes into account the need to ensure child and maternal health during pregnancy, as several preventable risks to child development are present during foetal life.
It is hoped, through this intervention, that all those involved in ECD work in South Africa will come to see themselves as belonging to a shared “community of practice” in the interests of young children.
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