Local Early Childhood Development Centres (ECDs) face an uphill battle to keep their doors open.
The Khanya Educare Centre in Zwelihle and the Food 4 Thought Community Project’s Funimfundo Pre-School in Stanford tell of all the challenges they have overcome and still face daily.
Paulos Klaas, who runs Khanya Educare, which has operated for 27 years, related how he and his late wife Elizabeth started the centre.
“We started operating from the Church of Christ Mission’s building on weekdays. We would buy groceries for the family and literally cut it in half for the centre.
“It was not easy, especially for the kids, but we were determined to make it work.”
He said more and more children started joining the ECD, and by 1994 he and his wife had started leasing the property next door to the church from Overstrand Municipality.
Maryanne Ward of Funimfundo Pre-School in Stanford explains this school materialised after a survey was conducted in 2002 and a need for a pre-primary school in the village established.
“The school would cater for severely marginalised Xhosa speaking children, aged 3 to 6,” she said. “In 2003 our school was opened, which was named Funimfundo, meaning ‘to seek knowledge’.”
Situated adjacent to the informal settlement known as “Die Kop”, Funimfundo Pre-School, caters for 60 children living there and in Thembelihle, Stanford. It employs seven staff members who are employed by Food 4 Thought.
A thriving vegetable garden has been planted and the school playground area has been expanded to accommodate 60 children, Ward said.
Klaas points out that Khanya Educare serves a constituency that is mostly unemployed.
“Buying food, electricity and clothes takes precedence over paying pre-school fees,” he said. “To many of the parents education seems like a luxury.”
This is echoed by Ward, who points out that the running costs of ECDs far exceed the government subsidy per child per day.
“We are indebted to the support of our donors, financially and in kind,” she said.
Ward says educationalists agree children are not adequately prepared for formal schooling, and start on the back foot, emotionally and academically.
“Food 4 Thought was established to fill this gap. Feedback received from past pupils, some of whom are as old as 22 now, is that they left Funimfundo understanding what the term ‘To Learn’ actually meant.”
The children at Funimfundo Pre-School have transport to school, where they are fed three snacks and two meals a day and are educated by Level 5, government-accredited teachers. “Funimfundo Pre School is a safe haven for 60 lovable, demonstrative children from 07:30 to 16:00, five days a week,” Ward said.
Klaas believes the purpose of an ECD centre is to develop the mental capacity of a child.
“We also give structure to a child’s day by having study, play and eating times,” he said.
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