Public-private partnerships (PPPs) have become an increasingly effective strategy for drawing together the resources and know-how that are needed to expand and improve support and services for ensuring that all children start school with the skills needed to thrive. This is a sizeable goal with wide-reaching implications for children, families, communities, and the economy. It is difficult to accomplish or finance this exclusively through any single entity; PPPs can be part of the solution.
In 2012, the Government of Mozambique started the Development of Preschool Aged Children program (Desenvolvimento Integral da Criança em Idade Pré-Escolar – DICIPE) an expansion of Early Childhood Development (ECD) services for the rural poor. The majority of the project was funded by the Ministry of Education (via a World Bank loan). The Service Providers (SP) were the NPOs – ADPP, Aga Khan Foundation, and Save the Children. The SPs were required to build preschools with two classrooms, with a capacity for 35 children in each, and to establish an ECD Community Committee in each community. They were also responsible for maintaining the preschool and for providing learning materials.*
Upon project implementation, stakeholders noted that the PPP arguably improved the equity of preschool provision in Mozambique, because the Ministry of Education did not have the capacity to provide services in the rural areas the SPs were able to reach. Conclusive results on the quality of the programme will be available when the impact evaluation results are released. The assumptions of quality here are similar to those taken by a social impact bond; inviting public-private partnership to ensure quality outcomes.
In South Africa, the private sector (including for-profit and non-profit organisations) is the primary provider of preschool services. These services are legally required to be registered with the Department of Social Development (DSD), and the Department’s social workers are responsible for supporting the registration process. There are many challenges to registration (and re-registration), resulting in huge backlogs in unregistered and illegally operating sites.
In an attempt to address these challenges, and free up much needed social workers from the intense administrative burden of registration, the Western Cape DSD is piloting an extension of the current PPP for ECD. The province has outsourced support for registration of ECD centres to well established NGOs. This is an interesting extension of the role that NGOs already play in the delivery of preschool services in SA and has the potential to transform the current system into one more enabling of population-based provisioning.
Under our portfolio, we have several innovations aimed at addressing constraints within one or more parts of the ECD registration and funding system. The projects being
- Making ECD Systems Flow
- ECD Compliance Made Easy
- Digital Enablement with DApps
Through our partnership with the Western Cape DSD, we aim to test the use of these tools and determine the feasibility of integrating these into provincial systems.
The continued success of public-private ECD partnerships ultimately depends on being able to demonstrate positive results over time. In reality, change takes time, and partnerships need to find ways to show successes, even small ones, that keep the momentum advocating for PPPs alive.
*Center for Universal Education at Brookings Institution, Public-Private Partnerships in Early Childhood Development: The Role of Publicly Funded Private Provision, 2016