Authorities must help preschools, not close them

Johann Kikillus, director Soteria Ministries, Ocean View

South Africa is in the middle of an education crisis. A recent statistic mentioned that 83% of Grade 4 children cannot read with comprehension.

An even greater number do not understand basic mathematics. For many years, I have tried to understand why this is the case.

To be fair, it is a very complex issue. Unfortunately many schools have teachers who make little effort to teach pupils but are more than happy to take their paycheck.

I have witnessed this right across the Western Cape. But, in my humble opinion, one of the biggest contributing factors is the fact that a great multitude of children have no access to Grade R.

This results in them starting formal school on the back foot with little foundation to build on. Added to that is the fact that each night millions of children in South Africa go to bed hungry.

In Cape Town, there are communities where children are not just hungry and uneducated but they are traumatised as well from the never-ending violence on the streets.

In 2015, Ocean View was in the midst of a gang war. All of the parks and play areas in the council flats were extremely dangerous.

Soteria Ministries gathered up as many kids as we could find and that was the beginning of Ocean View Care Centre. The plan was to provide a safe place for children to play as well as daily cooked meals to nourish them.

This quickly attracted the attention of the then mayor who arranged 13 containers for us to operate from. Soon the Department of Social Development came on board, and eventually the centre was turned into a fee-free school that could accommodate 100 children at a time.

We have just negotiated a contract with Western Cape Education Department, which was going to assist with our Grade R classes. Over the past eight years, over 900 children came through the centre who otherwise would have stayed at home.

The fact is that children who live off child grants are unable to afford educare anywhere.

This year, the City of Cape Town decided to start sending inspectors at a more frequent rate. It is impossible to meet all the requirements laid out on the pages handed to me by these officials.

I know that across Cape Town and the entire Western Cape are hundreds, if not thousands, of crèches and ECDs that are even less compliant than Ocean View Care Centre is, (“Children’s haven closes again,” Echo June 15).

Will all these places be shut down as well? I have no problem with the rules and regulations. The challenge is the great cost, which no crèche can pay for unless they are funded by wealthy individuals and business.

In a country where poorer children are already on the back foot, may I humbly suggest that ward councillors and municipalities spend their energies and resources in assisting these crèches rather than shutting them down.

In the end, the only people who truly suffer are the children. As we seek to build ECDs across Cape Town and the Western Cape aimed at uplifting our poorest children, I wish to ask the premier and the mayor for a round-table meeting to discuss how best to take this forward.

• The City of Cape Town responds: The City is currently developing a plan of action to assist and facilitate ECDs to become compliant and to enable them as organisations to become registered with the Western Cape government.

The Care Centre was originally developed as an outcome of the World Design Capital initiative and has been in operation since 2015.

It emerged recently that there were various issues which required resolution in relation to the safety of the teachers, care-givers and the children within the facility and a notice was served by the City of Cape Town on Monday June 5.

Since then, a series of inter-departmental meetings have been held by the City of Cape Town in order to find a way to facilitate and support the resolution of these safety issues.

The City has planned a meeting with the owner of the facility for next week in order to discuss the matter and agree on the way forward.