Early Childhood Development

Early Childhood Development   

The Government of the Republic of South Africa   prioritised early childhood development (ECD) since 1994. ECD has been recognised as one of the most powerful tools for breaking the intergenerational cycle of poverty in South Africa. Overwhelming scientific evidence confirms the tremendous importance of the early years for human development and the need for investing resources to support and promote optimal child development from conception. Lack of opportunities and interventions, or poor quality interventions, during early childhood can significantly disadvantage young children and diminish their potential for success. 

ECD Facts in South Africa

NDA Involvement in ECD

The National Development Agency (NDA), in support of the Department of Social Development (DSD) on provisioning of Early Childhood services, focuses on Early Childhood Development programmes that are not registered, those that are conditionally registered and  are geographically far beyond reach. These are programmes   situated in rural areas, informal settlements and farm areas where the levels of poverty are very high and parents have no means or access to structured ECD based programmes. The NDA undertakes the following interventions:   

Capacity building of ECDs

South African Early Childhood Development Awards (SAECD Awards)

The South African Early Childhood Development Awards (SAECD Awards) are located in the South African Integrated Programme of Action for Early Childhood Development- Moving Ahead (2013/14-2016/17)

The Awards aim to:

The Awards take place on an annual basis and recognise best practice and outstanding participation in ECD through the following seven categories:

The National Integrated Early Childhood Development Policy 

The development of the ECD Policy was necessitated by two essential gaps in the governing ECD policy and legal framework:   poor recognition of ECD services as a universal right and the lack of acknowledgement of the significant benefits that ECD services can produce for individual children, their families, communities and for the nation as a whole. The policy thus translates this recognition into associated responsibilities of the government of South Africa. It also seeks to provide clarity on definitional issues and to create an enabling, multi-sectoral framework to guide actions and ensure a coordinated response of public and private sector stakeholders, communities, parents and caregivers. The policy covers the period from conception until formal school entry (that is to say, until young children enter Grade R) or until they reach the age of 7 years in the case of children with developmental difficulties and/or disabilities, whichever occurs first. 


ECD Implementation Goals


Key Positions of the ECD Policy


  1. 1.    Age coverage:  The final draft National ECD Policy covers children from conception until the year before they enter formal school or in the case of children with developmental difficulties and disabilities until the year before the calendar year they turn seven (7), which mark the age of compulsory schooling or special education.

  2. 2.    ECD as a public good: The Policy recognises that the provision of early childhood development (ECD) services can be regarded as a public good, based on the recognition that ECD services not only contribute to the development and outcomes of the child, but also to the growth and development of society as a whole in the medium and long term.

  3. 3.    Universal access:  Government has committed to the attainment of universal access to ECD for all young children in South Africa.

  4. 4.    Dual Government-regulated Model of Public and Private Delivery of ECD Programmes:  Policy supports dual government regulated model of public and private delivery of services with universal access for all children. Parents will have a choice between private and public delivery of services and programmes.

  5. 5.    Institutional arrangements and role of the Department  of Social Development:  

  1. 6.    Infrastructure: Ascertains sufficient infra-structure for ECD services, linked to population based planning to realise universal access to quality ECD services that are appropriately spread out, within safe and reasonable physical reach, including infrastructure required to promote inclusion for children with disabilities. 

  2. 7.    Nutrition: The Policy views nutritional support for women from conception and during pregnancy, and for infants and young children, as critical. This includes exclusive breast feeding in the first six months after birth, safe and adequate nutritional practices. Poor nutrition in these crucial periods can lead to irreversible stunting and developmental delays, resultant in poor cognitive development, and ultimately lower educational and labour market performance. Stunting, wasting, under-weight, over-weight and obesity have been identified for implementation and must be addressed – some info is missing herem-doesnt make sense.

  3. 8.    Social Security: Pre-registration of income-eligible pregnant mothers to have access to the Child Support Grant from the first day of the child’s life. 

  4. 9.    Children with disabilities: The Policy is rooted in inclusion of young children with disabilities in ECD services and programmes. It focuses on prevention, early screening and intervention, appropriate support and early learning and developmental opportunities.

10.  Comprehensive ECD Programme:  Provides for a comprehensive package of quality ECD services, with identified essential components, i.e. programmes on health care and nutrition; social protection, parent support and opportunities for learning and playing.

11.  Human Resources: Consolidates appropriate cadres of human resources required, in sufficient numbers, with sufficient skills to support the implementation thereof. 

12.  Funding:  The policy aims to secure and distribute sufficient funds to ensure the comprehensive package of quality ECD programmes and services, with prioritisation of the identified essential components, especially for children from poor families.

13.  Communication Strategy:  The purpose of the strategy will be to provide information and make the parents and caregivers aware about the importance ECD services and programmes as well as how to access services.

14.  Monitoring and evaluation:  A national monitoring and evaluation framework will be designed and implemented to collect and provide information for progress on the implementation of the policy.

15.  Research: Research will be conducted every five years to assess the impact of the national ECD Policy service delivery.



The NDA plays a big role in national the Department of Social Development’s roll out and training programme of the ECD sector on the National Integrated Early Child Development Policy. 








Capacity Building

Provincial NDA Advisory Centres are walk-in places where trained personnel provide information, counseling support, guidance, and referral services to members of the public…


The NDA provides grants to civil society organisations through two methods, namely, Request For Proposals (RFP) and Programme Formulation.

early childhood development

Early Childhood Development (ECD) funding and assistance are available for children in need of resources to enable them to realise their full potential.

projects management

The NDA part takes in in the managing of a variety of programmes established and sustained in order to encourage development initiatives for communities in need.