Putting children first: What can South Africa learn from other countries?

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Early childhood development (ECD) is one of the most powerful levers to unlock South Africa’s potential and is recognised by government as a national priority. Yet the first nationally representative survey of pre-school children, Thrive by Five, found that 57% of children attending early learning programmes (ELPs) are not on track to meet normative development milestones (such as socio-emotional, cognitive and physical development) by age five.1 Skills beget skills, which means that the rate of return on investments in older children is determined by the size of investment in younger children.

This learning brief takes stock of South Africa’s ECD landscape and explores what we can learn from countries facing similar predicaments.

1 Giese, S., Dawes, A., Tredoux, C., Mattes, F., Bridgman, G., van der Berg, S., Schenk, J. and Kotzé, J. 2022. Thrive by Five Index Report Revised August 2022, Innovation Edge, Cape Town. https://thrivebyfive.co.za

June 2024 | Issue 27 HANDS-ON Experience Learning Stop nutritional stunting of young children. OPPORTUNITY 5 Make sure every child is ready to read and do maths by the time they go to school OPPORTUNITY 6 Stop nutritional stunting of young children OPPORTUNITY 5 Give every child the benefit of early childhood development 4 1 Issue 27 /// June 2024 PUTTING CHILDREN FIRST: WHAT CAN SOUTH AFRICA LEARN FROM OTHER COUNTRIES?

The first five years of a child's life are crucial for their lifelong development. ECD creates the intellectual, physical, and emotional foundation for all future investments in human capital. This foundation largely determines the effectiveness of later schooling, technical training, vocational education, and university studies.3 (See Figure 1)

Research by Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman shows that high-quality birth-to-five programmes for disadvantaged children can deliver a 13% per year return on investment.4 For every rand South Africa invests in quality early childhood development, the country will get at least R10 back.5


Figure 1: Human Capital Development Pathway

Source: Ilifa Labantwana and Kago Ya Bana. A plan to achieve universal coverage of Early Childhood Development Services by 2030

2 Unicef. Early Childhood Development. For Every Child, Moments Matter https://www.unicef.org/early-childhood-development

3 Ilifa Labantwana and Kago Ya Bana. 2018. A plan to achieve universal coverage of Early Childhood Development Services by 2030. p.1 https://tinyurl.com/ymzxs8z4

4 13% ROI Research Toolkit, in Heckman the economics of human potential. https://heckmanequation.org/

5 Ilifa Labantwana and Kago Ya Bana. 2018. Op.Cit. p.1.

GOAL 2 /// All young people on pathways to productivity 2 OPPORTUNITY 4 / 5 / 6


In South Africa, the early learning landscape is fragmented and uneven. Early learning (before school) is primarily market-driven and dominated by private providers. These providers are mostly black women operating informally, running non-profit organisations (NPOs) and micro-social enterprises that serve poor communities with limited funds.6 The government's ECD subsidy has failed to ensure fair access for all children, and interventions by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are often uncoordinated and lack scale.7

Where early learning programmes do exist, quality varies significantly. Quality is crucial because research indicates that children generally only benefit from early learning programmes if a certain level of quality is maintained.8

In 2013/14, Ilifa Labantwana9 and other ECD stakeholders developed the Essential Package (EP)10 to accelerate the provision of quality ECD services. In line with the National Integrated ECD Policy, the EP views ECD services as a continuum of interventions, with the immediate family offering primary level care and support. The EP has five components considered essential for all children:

Nutritional support,

Primary level maternal and child health interventions,

Social services,

Support for primary caregivers, and

Stimulation for early learning.

The only component of the Essential Package where South Africa is performing well as a country is primary maternal and child health. Over 90% of women attend antenatal clinics, while infant and child death rates have more than halved with anti-retroviral treatment.11

South Africa is performing poorly in other areas: Just over a quarter (27%) of children under five are nutritionally stunted12 – wiping off at least 1% of GDP growth per year.13

As of April 2024, the value of the basic Child Support Grant is R530 per child per month14, well below the food poverty line of R663, which was adjusted for inflation in 2023 to R760.15

Only half of 3-4-year-olds participate in any early learning programme, and only half of these children attend programmes of sufficient quality.16

In 2021, 81% of Grade 4 learners did not meet the lowest international standard for being able to read for meaning in any language, up from 78% in 2016.17

Positive developments:

In April 2022, responsibility for early childhood development (ECD) services moved from the Department of Social Development to the Department of Basic Education (DBE). This change presents a unique chance to enhance the early learning landscape. Now, it's up to the DBE to ensure that all children can enjoy high-quality learning experiences before they start Grade R, which is the first year of formal schooling.18 The department's strategy highlights its commitment to improving these services and addressing the reasons why some children don't get the same head start.


There are many inter-linked reasons why children in South Africa do not receive an equal start in life. Four of the leading ones are:

Lack of access to nutritious food, Poor early literacy and numeracy,

Lack of expenditure on early learning, nutrition and parenting support, and

A problem of leadership for implementation.

6 Ilifa Labantwana. 2020. The Plight of the ECD Workforce https://tinyurl.com/eyhja9we

7 SmartStart. 2020. Closing the gap in South Africa’s early learning provision: The case for a national delivery platform, p.2 https://tinyurl.com/2s472km9

8 Ibid.

9 Ilifa Labantwana is an NGO working to secure an equal start for all children living in South Africa, through universal access to quality ECD.

10 The Essential Package (EP) is South Africa’s adapted version of the globally recognised Nurturing Care Frame Work: https://nurturing-care.org

11 Ilifa Labantwana and Kago Ya Bana. 2018. Op.Cit. p.4

12 Stunting is a (largely preventable) condition where young children are excessively short for their age and do not reach their full growth potential due to chronic nutritional deprivation, repeated infections and poor psychosocial stimulation.

13 Ilifa Labantwana and Kago Ya Bana. 2018. Op Cit. p.4.

14 SASSA. 2024. SASSA Child Support Grant https://tinyurl.com/2vwr96ax

15 Statistics SA. 2023. National Poverty Lines. P0310.1 https://www.statssa.gov.za/ publications/P03101/P031012023.pdf

16 Ilifa Labantwana and Kago Ya Bana. 2018. Op Cit. p.4.

17 Department of Basic Education. 2023. PIRLS 2021: South African Main Report. p.31

18 Dawes, A. and Linda Biersteker, L. 2022. Improving the quality of teaching and learning in South African early learning programmes, at scale. DataDrive2030 Policy Brief. p.1 https://tinyurl.com/yckfkery

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The failure to provide nutritional support to young children carries significant costs. There is a crucial, time-sensitive period for their growth and development when nutritious food is essential. Without it, the consequences are severe – not only for the individual children but also for their communities and the nation. This is outlined in a report compiled by advocates for Real Reform For ECD,19 which emphasises the vital role of nutrition in early learning. Nutritious food is fundamental for both physical and cognitive development, particularly in the first 1 000 days of life, a time of rapid brain growth. Children deprived of essential nutrients often experience stunted growth – being too short for their age with potential long-term impacts on brain development. Such children are at higher risk of dropping out of school, facing employment challenges and living in poverty in adulthood.20

Rising food prices and inflation further challenge the ability of caregivers to provide nutritious meals. Notably, nearly one in five children in the Thrive by Five study displayed mild stunting symptoms. Although many of these children might physically catch up by ages four to five, the neurological effects of stunting can last much longer.21


In just eight years between 2008 and 2016, Peru cut its stunting rate from 28% to 13%.22 The government considered global evidence of stunting causes and sought out proven ways to reduce the rate of stunting. Its national nutrition strategy, CRECER (To Grow), helped to focus spending on the poorest communities to improve the health and nutrition of children in the first two years of life.

Cash incentives, through a Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programme known as Juntos (Together), were a crucial part of the mix. Juntos, launched in 2005, provided cash to mothers while requiring them to take their young children regularly for health, growth monitoring and promotion check-ups and to ensure their older children attended school.

Peru made tackling chronic malnutrition everyone's business with national, regional and local governments, the private sector, NGOs, parents, prime ministers and presidents working together to provide children with a strong start in life.

Peru’s experience demonstrates that to effectively reduce stunting, it is critical to invest in nutrition in the first 1 000 days of a child's life.23

19 Müller, A., Ronaasen, J., and Besada, D. 2023 Adequate Nutrition: A Pillar Of Early Childhood Development. https://tinyurl.com/ycxkrafp

20 Grow Great. Let’s Close the Food Gap https://tinyurl.com/bdz3nywp

21 Henry, J. and Giese, S. Thrive by Five Index updated stunting rates. DataDrive 2030. https://tinyurl.com/utusvxvx



https://tinyurl.com/2ses8b9a 23 Ibid.

Kathuria, AK., Arur, A. Kariko, E. Success stories with reducing stunting: Lessons for PNG. World Bank.
GOAL 2 /// All young people on pathways to productivity 4 OPPORTUNITY 4 / 5 / 6


The development of early literacy and numeracy skills is crucial as it correlates with higher achievement rates in school subjects like mathematics and science.24 However, too many children lack sufficient exposure to early literacy and numeracy, which are foundational for developing solid reading and maths skills.

Here are some statistics to illustrate the issue:

Only 35% of South Africans regularly read stories to their children before they can talk, and just 37% read to children before they learn to read themselves.25

According to the 2019 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), only a quarter of learners demonstrated readiness for numeracy and half for literacy upon entering Grade 1.26

Each year, approximately 300 000 learners drop out of school in South Africa.27

The rate of young South Africans not in education, employment or training (NEET) consistently remains above 30%, affecting more than 3 million young people.28

These statistics highlight significant challenges contributing to the cycle of inequality – where social and economic disadvantages are passed down from one generation to the next. Investing in the early development of children presents a critical opportunity to break this cycle of inequality.

2 3 4


Approximately 5% of South Africa’s national budget (1.5% of GDP), or R75 billion, is allocated to the Essential Package for early childhood development (ECD).29 Most of this funding supports maternal and child healthcare provided in primary healthcare clinics. Over a quarter of the government's ECD budget is dedicated to childcare grants, which helps explain why these healthcare programmes often outperform other services in the ECD package. Only 6.5% of the budget is spent on early learning, nutrition support and parenting initiatives.30

24 Chang, I. 2023. Early numeracy and literacy skills and their influences on fourth-grade mathematics achievement: a moderated mediation model. Large-scale Assess Educ 11, 18. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40536-023-00168-6

25 National Reading Barometer 2023. Special Issue Brief, Reading and Children. https://tinyurl.com/3nb7wtzn

26 Reddy, V., Winnaar, L., Harvey, J., Hannan, S., Isdale, K., Arends, F. & Juan, A. 2022. TIMSS 2019: Highlights of South African Grade 5 Results in Mathematics and Science https://hsrc.ac.za/uploads/pageContent/1044991/TIMSS%202019_Grade%205_ HSRC_FinalReport.pdf

27 Van der Berg S., Wills G., Selkirk R., Adams C., Van Wyk C. 2019. The cost of repetition in South Africa. Stellenbosch Working Paper Series No. WP13/2019. https://www.ekon.sun. ac.za/wpapers/2019/wp132019

28 Mudiriza, G. and De Lannoy, A. 2023. Profile of young NEETs aged 15-24 years in South Africa: an annual update https://tinyurl.com/4k2wht2m

29 Brooks, L., Mohamed, Z., Almeleh, C. and Maharaj, S. 2022. Accelerator 1. Towards universal access: A three-year acceleration plan for ECD funding in Early Childhood Development Accelerator Series p.5. https://tinyurl.com/pyabsh84

30 Ibid.

Despite President Cyril Ramaphosa highlighting ECD as a major priority in his State of the Nation Address,31 the 2024 National Budget did not increase funding to fully support every child's right to quality ECD services. According to Ilifa Labantwana, a key ECD organisation, the subsidy for ECD services has remained at R17 per child per day for six years, despite rising inflation. During this time, food prices have increased by approximately 39%. Ilifa’s chief economist, Laura Droomer, noted that in the 2024/25 financial year, it will be even more challenging for ECD programmes in disadvantaged communities to provide safe environments, nutritious food, decent working conditions and proper developmental stimulation for children.32


One of the main hurdles is that South Africa's current system –where essential services for young children are divided among several departments, including Social Development, Health, Basic Education, and Home Affairs – isn't set up to effectively handle the interconnected services needed for significant improvement. These services include early language development, child nutrition and support for disabilities.

Kentse Radebe, Deputy CEO of DGMT, emphasises the importance of coordinated and collaborative efforts: "Food plays a crucial role in learning at early learning programmes (ELPs), so it's vital to have a programme specifically focused on this, managed jointly by the Department of Basic Education and the Department of Health. After all, children suffering from stunting are treated in our clinics and hospitals. In everyday life, there isn't a divide between these departments; they need to work in unison."

While the South African Integrated Programme of Action for ECD 2013–2018 marked the setup of a coordination mechanism for ECD as a high priority, much more is needed than just interdepartmental collaboration. What's essential is dedicated Presidential leadership for children's services, linked to mechanisms that can fast-track these initiatives. It's clear that without a national programme aimed specifically at enhancing children's lives, substantial improvements in nutrition, education and related social outcomes will remain out of reach.

31 President Cyril Ramaphosa. 2024 State of the Nation Address https://tinyurl. com/4w8t5fk3

32 Ilifa Labantwana. 2024. A setback for children: our 2024 National Budget statement.



Countries that have successfully improved programmes for children typically have a central coordinating agency. This agency oversees the major national programmes that span various government departments and social sectors, ensuring they work together effectively.33 Some countries opt for a nationally recognised programme managed by one government department to promote unity and direction. A well-organised framework is crucial for large-scale early childhood programmes that collaborate with partners in both the public and private sectors. Alternatively, some nations choose to consolidate specific early childhood activities, like education and childcare, under one ministry to streamline responsibilities and enhance efficiency.



In Mexico, from 1997 to 2019 the Prospera (previously Oportunidades) Conditional Cash Transfer programme benefitted nearly 6 million families and has since been replicated in 52 countries.34 It was designed to address poverty by providing cash payments to mothers in exchange for regular school attendance, clinic visits and nutrition support. Consequently, school enrolment and nutrition rates in the country improved.35

It was centrally managed by Mexico’s Ministry of Social Development, relying on horizontal integration of other government services. Implementation was a crossdepartmental effort which included the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health and the Mexican Institute of Social

33 Ilifa Labantwana and Kago Ya Bana. op.cit. p. 4.

34 World Bank. 2014. A Model from Mexico for the World https://tinyurl.com/2vjs8ame

35 Ibid.

Security. Awareness was key to the success of the programme, aimed at families who were eligible to receive cash transfers and the collection of data for monitoring and evaluation.36

Large-scale programmes can mobilise parents, as well as support early learning and language development, nutrition and children with disabilities.



Sure Start was introduced in 1998 as a national programme for children under the age of four. It was driven by local partnerships of voluntary groups, parents and local authorities in poorer communities.37 Apart from core areas including outreach services, play and healthcare, local programmes offered services based on locally-defined needs.38 The ultimate goal of Sure Start Local Programmes (SSLPs) was to enhance the life chances of young children growing up in disadvantaged neighbourhoods.39 Until 2006 funding was channelled directly to individual programmes which were independent of local government.40

Results showed that children growing up in SSLP areas experienced better physical health than children in areas where these programmes were not present. Mothers living in SSLP areas also reported providing a more cognitively stimulating home learning environment for their children.41



The Chilean government launched the CCC programme in 2007 to address high rates of poverty. The programme supports the development of children under the age of five, bringing together education, health, social and community services to support the needs of children and their families.42

36 Núñez, P. Prospera Cash Transfer Program: Mexico. Inequality Solutions https://tinyurl.com/ycuzzz2n

37 Bate, A. and Foster, D. 2017 Sure Start (England) Briefing Paper Number 7257. https://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/CBP-7257/CBP-7257.pdf

38 Ibid.

39 Albert, A. 2024 What is a Sure Start Children’s Centre?. https://www.daynurseries. co.uk/advice

40 Melhuish E., Belsky, J. and Barnes, J. 2018. Sure Start and its Evaluation in England. Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development https://tinyurl.com/2ftrvdwp

41 The National Evaluation of Sure Start (NESS) Team. 2010. The impact of Sure Start Local Programmes on five year olds and their families. Research Report DFE-RR067. Birkbeck University of London. https://tinyurl.com/4eurwy6c

42 Centre for Public Impact. 2016. Chile Crece Contigo (CCC): supporting early years development https://www.centreforpublicimpact.org/case-study/chile-crece-contigo

GOAL 2 /// All young people on pathways to productivity 6 OPPORTUNITY 4 / 5 / 6

The Ministry of Social Development oversees coordination, in close partnership with the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education and municipalities across the country. The programme is fully funded by the government.43

Implementing a system that covers everyone within a short period involves intricate institutional, legal and financial arrangements. The CCC system was introduced gradually, focusing on groups of children starting from gestation and expanding as these groups aged. Consequently, the lifespan of the system's various components extended as the children benefiting from it grew older.44

A child’s entry point into the CCC programme begins when a pregnant woman attends their first pre-natal checkup. Data on pregnant women, infants and children are recorded on a data monitoring system that healthcare staff can access to follow up on specific cases and carry out risk assessments related to the development of each individual, according to age.45

The CCC programme represents an important shift towards a comprehensive, proactive and integrated multi-sectoral approach to family and child wellbeing.46 It’s had a significant impact on the health and welfare of low-income Chileans:

The poorest 60% of households have free access to nurseries and preschools, as do vulnerable families and those with special needs;

Families across Chile now have guaranteed access to antenatal care, professional care during birth, rounded care for children in hospitals, more children getting regular health checks and improved interventions for vulnerable children and those with special developmental needs.47

This programme has served as a blueprint for the design of similar initiatives in countries such as Colombia, Peru and Uruguay.48


For decades, Brazil has struggled with structural inequality and poverty, with high levels of hunger and deprivation.49 In 2016 it launched Criança Feliz Programme (CFP) meaning ‘Happy Child’. It’s one of the largest home visiting programmes in the world and aims to reach vulnerable pregnant women and young children across Brazil. CFP builds on Brazil’s Primeira Infância Melhor Programme (PIM) meaning ‘Better Infancy’; its two pillars are (i) home visits to strengthen families and (ii) inter-sectoral coordination to strengthen local, state and national services.50

While coordinated by the National Secretariat for the Promotion of Human Development within the Ministry of Social Development (MDS), the implementation of Criança Feliz is developed by states and municipalities.51 At each of the three levels of government – federal, state and municipal –the programme has an inter-sectoral steering committee and a technical group that function alongside a coordinating body.

Given the need to overcome inequalities in Brazil, the Ministry of Social Development (MDS) chose to prioritise the most vulnerable families: those served by the conditional cash transfer programme ‘Bolsa Família’.52 In order to withdraw their monthly cash transfers, beneficiaries must demonstrate that they (and their family members) have met the programme’s health and education conditions.53

Bolsa Família has had a positive effect on the health and education of Brazil’s poorest children, according to an evaluation by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).54 Among girls, the programme significantly increased school participation (by 8 percentage points) and grade progression (by 10 percentage points), with large, significant effects across both younger and older girls in rural areas.55

43 Bernard van Leer Foundation. Chile Crece Contigo (ChCC). https://tinyurl.com/ pk7d4d4s

44 World Bank. 10 Years of Chile Grows with you. P.46. https://tinyurl.com/52azpzev

45 Bernard van Leer Foundation. Chile Crece Contigo (ChCC). https://tinyurl.com/ pk7d4d4s

46 Loewenson, R. and Masotya, M. 2019. Chile case study: Building collective and institutional support for child wellbeing through Chile Crece Contigo, Universidad de Chile. https://tinyurl.com/2vr4mpc6

47 Centre for Public Impact. 2016. Chile Crece Contigo (CCC): supporting early years development https://www.centreforpublicimpact.org/case-study/chile-crece-contigo

48 World Bank. Op. Cit.

49 Centre for Public Impact. 2019. Bolsa Família in Brazil https://nurturing-care.org/ crianca-feliz-happy-child-programme/

50 Ibid.

51 Girade, H. Criança Feliz’: A programme to break the cycle of poverty and reduce the inequality in Brazil https://tinyurl.com/4tw45ryk

52 Ibid.

53 Reaching the hard to reach: A case study of Brazil’s Bolsa Família Program. https://reachalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/BolsaFamilia-CaseStudyFINAL-pages.pdf

54 International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). Study Finds Bolsa Família Children Healthier, Doing Better in School https://www.ifpri.org/news-release/study-findsbolsa-familia-children-healthier-doing-better-school

55 Alan De Brauw, A. Gilligan, D., Hoddinott, J., Roy, S. The Impact of Bolsa Família on Schooling https://doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2015.02.001


CFP improved children’s and caregivers’ communication skills, intensified family bonds and increased awareness of the importance of early childhood development. Mothers, fathers and other categories of caregivers emphasised the programme’s contributions to children’s development, including better motor coordination.56

In 2019, the programme was awarded the WISE award, recognising its efforts for being the largest and fastest growing home visiting programme of its kind in the world.57

Government departments have clear, specific roles in areas like child health, education and development. Starting by ensuring these departments fully deliver on their responsibilities is necessary, but it’s not enough to fully unlock a child's potential because:

Important elements of child development, like nutrition, require cross-cutting synergy across various departments and sectors (including government, business, civil society and trade unions).


One of the key reasons we struggle to achieve our goals for improving child outcomes is the lack of coordination among different government departments and state agencies that provide services to children and families. In South Africa, this effort cannot be undertaken by government or civil society alone.

56 Van Leer Foundation. Happy Child Programme is well perceived in Brazil, despite COVID-19 pandemic https://tinyurl.com/ye25fjdx

57 Nurturing Care for Early Childhood Development. Criança Feliz (Happy Child) Programme https://nurturing-care.org/crianca-feliz-happy-child-programme/

Some areas, such as early language development, fall through the cracks because no single department has clear responsibility – this an issue, for instance, between the Department of Basic Education and the Department of Sports, Arts & Culture.

Certain vital human qualities must be fostered outside of government purview, as they develop in homes and communities. These include personal identity, creative problem-solving, empathy, trauma mitigation, avoiding risky behaviours, sexual and reproductive health and seeking opportunities.

Although government is open to exploring new strategies to combat poverty and enhance services for children, it is often civil society, through public-private partnerships, that leads the way in innovation.


Grow Great, a project funded by DGMT, seeks to mobilise South Africa towards a national commitment to zero-stunting by 2030. It partners with multiple stakeholders, including government departments, civil society and parents, to deliver a package of social and behaviour change interventions aimed at improving maternal and child health, nutrition and early childhood development practices in the first 1 000 days of life. The CoCare Maternal Support Study (2020/21) conducted by Grow Great, Embrace58 and partners in the Western Cape during the Covid-19 pandemic found that vulnerable pregnant women who received digital food vouchers reported improvements in maternal hunger, mental health and dietary diversity between baseline and end-line results.

58 Embrace is a social movement that values and celebrates motherhood and mothers, and the critical role they have to play socially, economically and politically in South Africa.

GOAL 2 /// All young people on pathways to productivity 8 OPPORTUNITY 4 / 5 / 6


SmartStart aims to close the early learning provisioning gap in two ways: by integrating every stage of the service delivery continuum, and by providing the architecture and systems for establishing and managing programmes at scale. SmartStart reaches over 75 000 children a year, and its reach continues to expand.59

SmartStart currently has a Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Basic Education which includes the exploration of new models of public-private partnership to close the early learning access gap. This would mean new contracting arrangements between government and delivery systems like SmartStart, which can help to meet clear targets relating to access and quality in under-served areas.

SmartStart is also, together with its partner franchisors, engaging various provincial DBEs to discuss the overarching registration of the SmartStart programme. This, coupled with the district engagements to support registration of individual SmartStarter programmes, is essential to support registration for home and community-based programmes.


Ilifa Labantwana is designing the DBE’s ECD Management Information System (MIS). This will improve government’s ability to monitor the extent to which South Africa is closing the early learning access gap and budgeting for increased resources.


Childhood development occurs in various places such as homes, communities, and health and educational facilities. Ensuring effective development in these areas requires the active involvement of all sectors of society. While the government must lead and take responsibility for realising children's rights, it must also partner with other sectors to ensure children reach their full potential.

The critical role of child development for the nation's future, and its multi-sectoral nature, suggests that the governance of children's rights should be centralised in the Presidency. The leadership for this must be directly accountable to the President and include top experts from both government and non-governmental sectors.

International examples indicate that national programmes under a strong, recognisable brand foster public awareness and enhance synergy across different departments and sectors.

To propel a National Programme of Action for Children forward, a new accelerator mechanism is essential. It must combine speed and credibility, and be able to act swiftly and effectively, while being formally endorsed by the leadership within the Presidency. A practical approach would involve a public-private partnership, where the accelerator is developed within a reputable non-governmental organisation in close cooperation with the government. DGMT intends to incubate such an accelerator until its long-term institutional arrangements become clearer.

59 SmartStart provides a unique national delivery platform that seeks to address the lack of affordable, quality early learning programmes, and the need for trained and licensed practitioners, while creating new employment opportunities. It does so through a social franchise model.

This brief was written by Daniella Horwitz and edited by Rahima Essop. It was made possible thanks to contributions from Ilifa Labantwana, SmartStart and Grow Great.

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