Children’s haven closes again

The Ocean View Care Centre founder Johan Kikillus addressing parents and children on Friday June 9 after the school had to close with immediate effect.

The Ocean View Care Centre, a haven for underprivileged children in Ocean View, closed on Friday.

It’s the second time the centre has been forced to closed since it opened in 2015.

In October 2018, the school was closed after a health inspector noted the school had no running water and the children had to use a toilet at the civic centre (“Ocean View safe haven shuts doors,” Echo, October 11, 2018).

The school reopened in January 2019 after the founder of the school, Johann Kikillus, met with former mayor Dan Plato and a standpipe and three toilets were installed as part of the mayor’s urban regeneration programme (“Safe haven for little ones reopens its doors,” Echo, January 31, 2019).

On Friday, Mr Kikillus had to break the news to parents and children that the school had to close again, this time due to non-compliance of National Building Regulations and a fire-safety by-law.

The notice was served on Mr Kikillus a week after we reported on the school’s struggles to reconnect to electricity after it was cut off by the City (“Power outage spells misery for preschoolers,” Echo, June 1).

According to the letter, the stairways don’t comply with national regulations, and the shipping containers are deemed “non-standardised” and situated too close together in case of a fire.

Mr Kikillus said he respected the City’s wishes and would close the school but would continue to feed the children, and school staff would supervise them as they play outside the school.

He said that for many of the children, the two meals they received at the school were the only food they got, and the parks in Ocean View were run-down and not safe.

It was also “halfway through the year” and the children would not be able to complete Grade R.

The children attended his school for free, he said, as most of the parents received a grant which was not enough to pay for preschool.

According to the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) website, child-support grants were increased from R480 to R500 from April 1 this year.

The letter states that Mr Kikillus must, among other things, install fire-safety signage and provide details of the container walls and the fire rating thereof and chemical-powder fire extinguishers that are mounted to the wall. And a container for more than 50 people must have two exit doors.

In an earlier response to an enquiry about the electricity, which the City did not respond to at the time of going to print, mayoral committee member for community services and health Patricia van der Ross said an electricity meter could only be installed at the school when a valid certificate of compliance had been obtained.

“It is important to note that City electricity officials only identified visible areas such as earthing, among others, that need to be attended to,” she said.

However, Mr Kikillus said he did not understand how the shipping containers and the electrical circuits were non-compliant as the shipping containers had been supplied and installed by the City on City property and all water and electrical connections had been done by the City.

He said he could also not understand how the shipping containers were expected to have two exits when the City supplied shipping containers with one entrance and exit.

Mr Kikillus said the school did not have enough funds to pay for a private electrician.

A parent, Octavia van Neel, said her 5-year-old daughter was doing well at the school, and she questioned why the City would close the school.

“Our children need education. There is no future for them here in Ocean View without an education. We are pleading with the City not to close this school,” she said.

Nicolette Bergman said her son got a bursary at Laerskool Paul Greyling after attending Mr Kikillus’s school and was now in Grade 4 and “flourishing.”

“Our children get a good education here so good that they are accepted by other schools where they can further their education,” she said.

In 2018, Laerskool Paul Greyling made seven bursaries available for children from poor communities aged 5 to 9 (“Bursaries available,” Echo November 15, 2018).

Ms Bergmann said Ocean View was neglected by the City.

“Johann put everything into this place to keep our children safe and off the street and to help them get educated and now this,” she said.

Tania George said her granddaughter woke up every morning asking for her to get ready so she could go to school.

“What must I tell her now? How am I going to tell her that she can’t go to school.”

She said the school was a refuge for the children as many of their parents were absent and addicts.

The Echo asked the City how the shipping containers that it had supplied were “non-standardised”, why the electrical fitting and electrical boards it had installed were non-compliant, and why it had placed the containers too close together when initially setting up the school in 2015.

At the time of going to print, the City said it was still looking into the relevant background to formulate a response.

According to the City, the staircases don’t comply with national regulations.
According to the City, an electrical board, which was fitted by the City, according to the Ocean View Care Centre founder Johann Kikillus, is non-compliant.
A picture of City officials offloading the shipping containers in 2015.