/ 20 October 2021

Early childhood caregiving is the career that keeps giving

(Graphic: John McCann/M&G)
(Graphic: John McCann/M&G)

The South African labour market is more favourable to men than women, especially since the Covid-19 pandemic hit. According to Statistics South Africa (August 2021), the participation rate of men in the labour market is always higher than that of women. 

Men have more employment opportunities in the formal sector, while women tend to be employed in the informal sector. Furthermore, men are more likely to be in paid employment than women, regardless of race. The quarter two Quarterly Labour Force Survey report (2021), states that the rate of unemployment among women was 36.8% in the second quarter of 2021 compared to 32.4% among men. 

The Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator, a nonprofit enterprise, in its August 2021 issue conducted in-depth research on the high rates of unemployment of women. It found that women’s unemployment also directly affects the well-being of children. 

Statistics South Africa in 2018 found that more than 70% of black children are raised by mothers, with absent fathers who do not pay maintenance. This contributes to the continuing gender income inequality. 

Women and children are the centre of these inequalities, and their vulnerability calls for government and civil society intervention. 

Workshops for caregivers – that lead to jobs

The Seriti Institute’s aRe Bapaleng programme is running early childhood development (ECD) active learning workshops in disadvantaged areas for caregivers. The purpose is to provide caregivers with the skills and resources that help caregivers understand the role they play in shaping children’s lives — and to help them get jobs and earn an income. 

Seriti wants to expand the caregiver network by recruiting people from the workshops, who will be trained to run the workshops. This way, the programme also addresses the issues of unemployment and lack of agency among women, with a particular focus on the youth. The candidates will receive a stipend that will be earned according to work completed. 

This concept may not close the unemployment gap, because the caregiver networkers will not be permanently employed, but it will improve their employability. For example, they will gain practical work experience supported by seasoned mentors and some of the participants will get the opportunity to gain a formal qualification through an ECD course.

Women are undervalued and underpaid in the childcare sector, as the Women’s Report Africa 2021 has illustrated. aRe Bapaleng and its network attempts to alleviate this situation, because its caregivers have greater agency and are recognised for the contribution they make to social service delivery in their area. 

Seriti’s approach is inspired by the department of basic education’s Vision 2030, which aims to improve the ECD sector by expanding the system of further education, training and skills development by offering educational and training opportunities to young people who have obtained a low pass in their National Senior Certificate. 

This includes older people who wish to develop their skills, adults who left school early or did not have access to education, and young people aged 16 to 29 who completed grade nine and left school. The vision further emphasises that the curriculum needs to be designed to respond to the specific needs of these age groups to help them develop their life opportunities. 

Through the caregiver networker concept, aRe Bapaleng can reach more beneficiaries in a shorter time frame, as well as continue to deepen the quality of ECD support children are getting in underserved communities. 

The programme will also support a real demand to enable caregivers to be more qualified in the ECD space, improving their employment prospects.  

Thando Sole, who participates in the aRe Bapaleng programme, said: “I found the aRe Bapaleng active learning workshops very informative and enjoyable. I am very passionate about ECD and I would like to pursue a career in this industry. I had planned on registering for a course this year but unfortunately due to financial constraints I could not. 

“I sometimes volunteer at a local daycare centre in my area. This is good because I then do all the activities I learnt at the [workshops]. I think the caregiver network programme is a good idea, especially for us, the unemployed. It would help us a lot in terms of getting ECD-related knowledge and skills, which could make us employable.”