Ready for play, but no children

2015-05-05 07:17
An inside look into the newly revamped Scorpio Creche which has no children registered an is empty. 

PHOTO: 
MONIQUE DUVAL

An inside look into the newly revamped Scorpio Creche which has no children registered an is empty. PHOTO: MONIQUE DUVAL

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The classrooms are empty and a storm is brewing at the recently revamped Scorpio Crèche.

The new centre was embroiled in a heated debate among Ocean View crèche users in February amid news its operating rights had been awarded to the previous contractor, Foundation for Community Work (FCW).

The awarding of the rights had been opposed by the South Peninsula subcouncil a few months earlier. The subcouncil supported a counter proposal by the Ocean View Early Childhood Development (ECD) forum for the establishment of a consortium of local crèches to run the centre.

The forum also boycotted the official opening by Suzette Little, City of Cape Town mayoral committee member for social development and early childhood development.

Last week Riedewhaan Allie, director of FCW, met with the forum and proposed that Ocean View crèches use the facility in hourly slots.

He said FCW was not registered and the building was not compliant and this meant he could not run the centre.

“For those who have walked around the building, there are still a few things that needs attention. After the painting, the burglar bars were not secured properly. The health and fire clearances we are still waiting on.”

Allie said they would like to start a “capacity building” programme to assist unregistered crèches with training and development.

He said without the necessary clearances they were not in the position to have children in the building.

However, he explained FCW would like to open up the centre to allow other crèches to make use of the equipment. In addition, FCW would start a toy library system, in which teachers could borrow equipment and return it.

“On the same system the library is used we will make the space available for any of the local pre-schools. You can bring your children, book the space and you come for two or three hours [and] enjoy the facilities.”

This service would be free.

Asked whether the City had agreed to this system, Allie initially gave a vague answer but when further probed he said they had agreed.

When asked for a conformation of this, Little said: “The City always advocates for broader community participation in matters pertaining to community development. Secondly, the aim is to ensure maximum use of the facility to support small home-based ECD centres as part of a community outreach programme. This is in line with the concept of ECD centres of excellence which strive to enhance the sharing of resources and expertise.”

Speaking at the meeting teachers said they were reluctant to bring children if the building was not compliant. They wanted to know who would be liable if a child or teacher got hurt.

According to Little, the lease agreement states that the appointed operator needs to ensure the safety of the children and staff.

Forum chairperson Marti Weddepohl said she was shocked and disappointed that FCW’s centre was not ready.

Allie said his ECD centre would not be in competition with other existing crèches.

Teachers present at the meeting disputed this, as FCW would be charging a fee.

One teacher asked how the City could allow this new centre to stand empty when there were other crèches in need.

“Did they know there were no children for this building? It’s unfair because the City is aware of us. We have needs and have children. Would it not have been wise to assist these crèches rather than putting this stuff in a building and it’s not being used?” she asked.

Allie said the equipment would not go to waste.

“Your preschool operating from your separate entrance is your business, not the City’s. It’s not in their interest to say this is what we want you to do in your business,” he said.

In response Weddepohl said while the home-based crèches in Ocean View were businesses that made a profit, she questioned whether FCW was.

Allie said they had different “streams of income”.

Meanwhile, Little says FCW is registered and has a reputable history in the ECD field.

“As part of the supply chain management requirements, the City requested registered ECD non-profit organisations to submit business plans for consideration to be appointed to use and manage the facility through a lease agreement. FCW met the set criteria.”

Little says the building is deemed compliant with national building regulations. However, there were legal delays with the actual signing of the lease agreement.

“This is due to a specific request from me to include certain clauses in the agreement to ensure more accountability by the appointed operator. This has now been finalised and we expect the facility to become fully operational soon.”

However, during the meeting Allie repeatedly said the building was not compliant nor safe for children.

He said no children were registered at Scorpio Crèche. Yet on the day of the opening children were present. According to various reports the City brought children from Elsies River for the opening by bus.

Little confirms this and says: “During the preparations for the official launch of the facility our officials engaged with local ECD forum members to invite their children to provide an entertainment item during the event. Unfortunately, they indicated that they were unable to do so and we sourced children from our ECD centre in Elsies River.”

The forum has decided to not take up FCW’s offer as it is concerned about safety in the building. The forum also believes Scorpio Crèche will “take” children from local crèches in future and for this reason does not want to support Allie.

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