Policy for young children in South Africa is now receiving high-level government support through the ANC’s renewed commitment to redress poverty and inequity and creating ‘a better life for all’ as promised before the 1994 election. In this article, I explore the power relations, knowledge hierarchies and discourses of childhood, family and society in National Curriculum Framework (NCF) as it relates to children’s everyday contexts. I throw light on how the curriculum’s discourses relate to the diverse South African settings, child rearing practices and world-views, and how they interact with normative discourses of South African policy and global early childhood frameworks. The NCF acknowledges indigenous and local knowledges and suggests that the content should be adapted to local contexts. I argue that the good intentions of these documents to address inequities are undermined by the uncritical acceptance of global taken-for-granted discourses, such as narrow notions of evidence, western child development, understanding of the child as a return of investment and referencing urban middle class community contexts and values. These global discourses make the poorest children and their families invisible, and silence other visions of childhood and good society, including the notion of ‘convivial society’ set out in the 1955 Freedom Charter.
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