Preschool in dire straits

2008-07-17 00:00

THERE’S no doubting Val Anderson’s determination to help people in need. But on the day in June when I visit her at the Nkosinathi Crèche and Day Care Centre which she manages against the odds in the small town of Cramond, she’s showing visible signs of strain.

“This is a thrown-away community. Nobody supports us,” she says. Later, when I ask why she perseveres with the crèche in the face of ongoing funding problems, she’s overcome by emotion.

“I’m sorry, but it’s really bad,” she says once she’s composed herself. “I’m inspired by God. There are so many people in need.”

Anderson says she often dips into her personal funds or borrows food to keep the crèche’s 45 children fed and hasn’t been able to pay her teachers their last month’s salary. Anderson frequently relies on volunteers to help with the younger children. Funding from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, which pays R12 a day per child, is often several months’ late.

“Every time [Nelson] Mandela goes overseas, he gets money for children, but Cramond doesn’t get anything,” she says. “Where does all the Mandela money go?”

An experienced crèche manager, Anderson first came to Cramond from Eastwood in 2003 and started working in a crèche, set up by the Nkosinathi Community Development Organisation, which was then operating on local farmer Drummond McKenzie’s farm with funds secured through the national lottery.

“After those funds dried up, there was no more money,” says Anderson. She left to set up her own child-care facility.

McKenzie, who, together with other farmers in the area, was instrumental in setting up the organisation, said the Nkosinathi Community Development Organisation still exists, but in name only.

The care and education of pre-schoolers is not Anderson’s only concern. Since her arrival in Cramond, she has been pushing for a wider range of facilities in the area, such as old-age homes and services for the disabled.

During her time in the area, she says she’s witnessed the folding of an adult basic education and training course owing to lack of funds and she’s watched people with HIV/Aids die without any support.

Anderson says that she has failed to convince the powers-that-be of the necessity of having an HIV/Aids care facility in the area.

“I know a girl with HIV/Aids who died on the pavement. She was put into a wheelbarrow and taken to the hospital, but they turned her away because they could do nothing for her. She had nowhere to go. She had to go home. It’s not good for children to watch someone dying like that in the home.”

Anderson’s commitment to giving children in the area a safe and stimulating environment is what helps her to keep the crèche running. Eleven out of the 45 children who attend are orphans and do not pay the R40 per month fee.

In fact, most people in the area struggle to pay the fees. According to Anderson, HIV/Aids rates are high and many people live on a monthly grant of only R200. Others are employed in the agricultural sector, and as domestic workers in the homes of farmers, but unemployment is generally high. Anderson describes the children at her crèche, which could take up to 65 children, as the “lucky few”.

The location of the crèche is also not ideal, being a couple of kilometres away from the main residential area of Thokozani. But Anderson says that she was told to move from the township where her crèche occupied two houses.

“The committee felt that the community needed those houses for accommodation.”

She now rents a house next to the police station for R900 a month.

Anderson says that the local supermarket and other individuals help with snacks and donations from time to time, but these are erratic and food is frequently borrowed or brought from home.

“Individuals do give what they can, but it’s not consistent or sustained.”

Ward councillor Promise Dlamini said that Anderson’s crèche is known to be well run.

“Any donations would be appreciated,” he said.

HOW you can help

Financial contributions to the crèche can be deposited into the following bank account: Nkosinathi Crèche and Day Care Centre, First National Bank, Raisethorpe.

Branch code: 250068.

Account number: 6216 75 46 468.

For other contributions or queries, contact Val Anderson at 073 451 3003.

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