Early Childhood Development in South Africa: Inequality and Opportunity

  • Michaela Ashley-CooperEmail author
  • Lauren-Jayne van Niekerk
  • Eric Atmore
Part of the Policy Implications of Research in Education book series (PIRE, volume 10)


In South Africa the majority of young children are adversely impacted by a range of social and economic inequalities. Apartheid, along with the resultant socio-economic inequalities, deprived most South African children of their fundamental socio-economic rights, including their right to early education. Global evidence shows early childhood development (ECD) interventions can protect children against the effects of poverty; and that investment in quality ECD programmes for young children has a significant effect on reducing poverty and inequality across society. Currently children in South Africa are exposed to significant variation in the distribution and quality of ECD programmes. This chapter reviews the most up-to-date data on the current inequalities in ECD in South Africa, in relation to age, race, gender, location, and income levels; and examines current provision rates and differences in quality; data which has, up to now, not been synthesised in this way. The chapter explores the consequences of inequality, and why this inequality persists. To bring about equality for young children, a number of government actions are recommended.


Poverty Inequality Early childhood development Early education Grade R Policy Government Provision Preschool ECD centre 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michaela Ashley-Cooper
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lauren-Jayne van Niekerk
    • 2
  • Eric Atmore
    • 2
  1. 1.Centre for Early Childhood DevelopmentClaremont, Cape TownSouth Africa
  2. 2.Department of Social DevelopmentUniversity of Cape TownRondebosch, Cape TownSouth Africa

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