The New Life Kids Centre, a safe haven for underprivileged children in Ocean View has closed its doors.
Less than a week after laughter filled the playground and children enjoyed birthday cake donated by the Echo after its 65th birthday, (“Echo birthday,” Echo, October 4), the playground of the centre, based at the Ocean View Care Centre, was deserted.
Founder Johann Kikillus said a City of Cape Town health inspector visiting the centre on Wednesday September 26 had expressed concern about the children not being able to wash their hands under running water and having to use a toilet at the civic centre next door as the Care Centre does not have a flushing toilet.
The inspector also indicated that rust on the container door hinges was a concern and that no food was allowed to be prepared at the centre.
The inspector had pointed out the same issues during an earlier visit in June and had also said all plug points in the container should be covered.
Mr Kikillus said he had managed to cover the plug points at his own cost but could not be held responsible to provide running water and flushing toilets.
He said that when the centre had opened in 2015, the City had promised to provide running water, flushing toilets and electricity.
While the electricity had been provided, the running water and flushing toilets had not materialised, and he when he had asked about them, he had been met with one excuse after another, he said.
“After the visit from the health inspector in June, I wrote a letter to the council asking for assistance. I had no response, not even an acknowledgement of my letter,” he said.
Although none of the reports from the health inspector states the centre must be closed, Mr Kikillus said it seemed like he was fighting a losing battle.
“I simply don’t have the resources to keep the centre’s doors open,” he said.
Children at the New Life Kids Centre are not only provided a safe place but are given two meals a day.
Members of the South Peninsula Customary Khoi Council also use the centre to educate children about Khoi heritage and language.
Mr Kikillus said he was worried that there was very little help for the growing numbers of vulnerable children in Ocean View.
He acknowledged that the centre was never intended to be a preschool but rather a place of safety where 5-year-olds could eat, play and learn for free, especially for those who had no means to attend a preschool.
“In many cases, the meals provided to the children are the only meal that child will have that day. Many of the children face abuse and are in danger if they stay at home during the day,” he said.
He could not keep the school open until he had some sort of assurance from government that it would provide some assistance, he said.
“Although the school is closed, I will prepare porridge and sandwiches at home, and we will continue to feed the children from a humanitarian point of view,” he said.
Ward councillor Simon Liell-Cock said he was not privy to the initial agreement between the City and the Care Centre, but it was the City’s duty to ensure the centre complied with the law and the health inspector had enforce health laws.
As the centre looked after vulnerable children, it should be compliant with the Child Care Act, he said, adding that he would call a meeting with the relevant authorities and Mr Kikillus to discuss the matter.
The City did not respond to questions by the time this edition went to print.
The Ocean View Care centre will remain open for business as usual. For more information or if you are in need of help, contact Mr Kikillus at 084 280 2213 or email firstname.lastname@example.org