From feeling hopeless to KZN’s third-best crèche

2015-03-16 00:00

WHAT started as a small crèche in the hills of Mpophomeni is now a bright, award-winning pre-school with a passionate principal heading its success.

Never Never Land principal Zandile Khoza started the crèche in her parents’ back yard in Mpophomeni, but would ­never have thought she would be winning awards for her teaching and for her modest pre-school.

After failing to complete her year at the Fern Hill Hotel School due to her severe epilepsy and heart palpitations, Khoza made her way back home to rest and decide what to do with her life.

“It was a depressing time. I had no ­medication to control my epilepsy and heart conditions and I could not cope at school so I had to come back home.”

After a few months of sitting at home, Khoza approached her parents and asked to use the back room on their property as a crèche after seeing small children ­wandering through Mpophomeni during the day. “I went door-to-door telling the community about my crèche, but not many people were keen. I didn’t have any training, and I wasn’t really sure what I would be teaching the children, but I knew I would figure it out.

“One woman agreed to send her daughter to me and for six months I sat with my one pupil and taught her nursery rhymes, poems and how to colour in.”

As her only pupil showed off her new skills to the community, 30 parents ­approached her to enrol their children over one weekend.

As the school grew, the Cedara ­community approached her and said they had an abandoned RDP house for her to use as a classroom and she immediately accepted.

Khoza attended church meetings and asked people to spread the word and soon she had a few generous donations of ­classroom supplies and built a second classroom and an outside toilet.

Upon an inspection by a social worker from the Social Development ­Department, Khoza was told to apply to the Early Child Development awards.

“My crèche came third for the best crèche in KwaZulu-Natal and I was ­awarded the third-best early child ­development educator in KwaZulu-Natal in January this year.

“I was just so amazed. For such a humble school from such a poor area to win this award is just wonderful and I am ­honoured.”

With 54 children — of whom the parents of only 18 are able to afford the R110 school fees per month — the crèche has very little funding and relies strongly on donations, volunteers and the Department of Social Development.

Khoza said the majority of the children who come from “granny-headed households” are HIV positive. She said she cannot stand to see anyone suffer, which was why she took in many children although their parents could not pay.

Local woman Sarah Pennington and Hilton and Howick Rotary have both donated and ­invested in Khoza and her crèche stating she was a “brilliant teacher”, and was ­always extremely appreciative for ­everything people did for her.

• chelsea.pieterse@witness.co.za

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