Thrive by Five Index shows we are failing our youngest generation

Thrive by Five Index shows we are failing our youngest generation

10 Feb 2022


**14 April 2022 (for immediate release) – Statement issued by the Campaign for Real Reform for ECD **

Media statement: Real Reform for ECD (RR4ECD) welcomes the Thrive by Five Index for providing a measurement for child developmental outcomes in South Africa. The findings of the Index paints a worrying picture, showing us that 2/3rds of our young children are unlikely to achieve their potential. We see this as an opportunity to use the Index data to advocate for quality, inclusive and holistic early childhood development services and stop failing our youngest generation.

The release of the Thrive by Five Index on 8 April is a landmark moment for South Africa. Thrive by Five Index is South Africa’s first nationally representative survey of preschool children which provides a barometer for child development outcomes for children ages 4-5.

The Index itself is impressive and much needed, however the results are grim. The Index bolsters reports that ECD activists have been highlighting for years: Early Childhood is the single greatest opportunity to invest in human development, and children across the country are suffering the consequences of a lack of investment and support.

Our failures will stay with us for years to come. The Index shows that 2/3rds of our young children are failing to thrive and are unlikely to achieve their potential. Furthermore, the differences in developmental outcomes are not arbitrary, with stark differences between poorer children and their wealthier peers. These barriers are difficult to remediate, and in a country such as ours most children who experience early challenges will never realise their right to life and to development as they are not receiving the support required to thrive within the education system and beyond.

Children’s early challenges are compounded and ensure that less is learned in school, and that children are less capable of handling the demands of a competitive economic environment. Early learning challenges lead to school dropout, poor matric results, repeated school years and a less effective system for preparing young people for the world. Minister Motshekga herself highlighted this at the launch of the Index, stating that a house is limited by the strength of its foundation. Good quality ECD is the foundation upon which all future thriving is built.

The results for fine motor coordination and visual motor integration and the results for emergent numeracy and mathematics are of particular concern: here, 65% of children are falling behind or far behind. Early learning and stimulation which is provided either at home or in good quality early learning programmes can address these deficits. However more than 3.2 million of our country’s 0-5 year olds have no access to any form of early learning programme, and of the 2.5 million children who do, only 626 574 children receive government subsidies which allow poor communities to sustain these programmes at a decent level of quality. It is therefore not surprising then that our children are falling behind.


Stunting rates for our children are persistently very high since democracy with on average at least a quarter of children displaying signs of stunting. These figures are in line with the Index which shows a stunting rate of 25%. These rates are very high, and is a sign of both chronic malnutrition and infection, and a significant reduction in life chances for children. The Real Reform for ECD campaign calls for nutritional support to be delivered to all early learning programmes, and supports the call for a maternity support grant as part of the solution for addressing this unacceptable and persistent national problem.

The Index is an opportunity. For the first time we have the data we need to get the country behind the importance of quality, inclusive and holistic early childhood development services. It is an immense moral failing that we allow the brilliance of our youngest children to be squandered. Expanded access to affordable, quality early learning opportunities must form part of the solution. The Campaign for Real Reform for ECD welcomes the DBE’s support for this Index. We now call on the Department of Basic Education to do what is necessary to respond, endorse the following five reforms for ECD:

  1. We need a one-step registration process for ECD providers and different types of ECD providers must be regulated differently.
  2. All children attending any type of ECD programme should be able to access the early learning subsidy if they need it.
  3. Simpler, adequate health, safety and programme standards must be in place and must be accessed through one process.
  4. It must be made clear that you can get conditional registration if you can’t meet all the registration requirements and MECs must support providers to meet requirements and report on their systems of support.
  5. The infrastructure needs of the sector must be supported.

These reforms will ensure more vulnerable children are able to access early learning programmes and ensure that more children receive the early learning subsidy. This is a first step to ensuring that services are able to provide nutrition and stronger quality of care and stimulation for vulnerable children, which, in turn, allows children to thrive by five.

We now have indisputable evidence that the challenges for the majority of children in South Africa start before school. The National Integrated Early Childhood Development Policy states that:

“The Government is responsible for taking all appropriate legislative, administrative and other measures necessary to secure the realisation of the universal early childhood development rights of all children.”

We must work together to realise this vision. For the sake of our children and for the sake of our nation.

Statement issued by the Campaign for Real Reform for ECD

Real Reform for ECD is a movement advocating for holistic, well-funded, inclusive and quality early childhood development services for all children. Our focus is to ensure an enabling legal, policy and regulatory environment for the provision and expansion of ECD services

To find out who already supports our campaign visit our website:

For further information or to arrange an interview, contact:

Zoe Postman E-mail: Phone: 063 506 0971