Access to early childhood development services: perceptions, experiences and challenges of early childhood practitioners and parents
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Children’s learning and development takes place in a range of contexts and this includes at Early Childhood Development centers and at home with family. Parent involvement in their children’s education has been viewed as an important variable that positively influence children’s education. Young children need quality childcare to develop their innate potential and prepare for formal education. Quality care provides nurturing relationships, a mentally stimulating environment, basic health and safety. The formal provisioning of Early Childhood Development falls under the mandate of the Department of Social Development for registered early childhood development centers and the Department of Education for Grade R, the preparatory grade for primary education. The study investigated the perceptions, experiences, and challenges of parents and early childhood development practitioners with regards to their access of early childhood services. The theory underpinning this study was Bronfenbrenner’s ecological system, which is based on the principle of interconnectedness within settings and the link between settings that affect individual development. The study utilised a qualitative approach and data were collected from parents and early childhood practitioners within the Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality in the Eastern Cape Province. The findings regarding the perceptions of practitioners, principals and parents included perception of Early Childhood Development services, affordability, and contentment with ECD education, proximity of the centers and the role of the practitioners. The experiences of the parents, principals and practitioners highlighted in the study includes involvement of parents, training of practitioners, limited support from stakeholders, and scarce resources. In addition, lack of sufficient infrastructure, lack of adequate learning materials, underqualified practitioners and shortage of funds were noted as the challenges affecting the practitioners and the parents. The study recommended training of practitioners, infrastructure development.
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