For 24 years the Masibulele Educare Centre was just a double-storey shack in Makhaza, Khayelitsha, shaping the minds of more than 100 children daily.
Until 2016 when Olivia Krok met Nwabisa Xaba in the Green Point park -unaware that three years later, she would change many lives.
The Masibulele Educare Centre has been rebuilt into an established building and officially opened on Saturday, October 12, following a great effort to raise funds.
"It always was inherent to me. I was always around this mentality of kindness, and giving and sharing. I was always interested in being involved in social impact work, but I just didn't know in which direction I wanted to go," Kroks told News24.
The start of something new
Xaba's mother, Thandi Xaba, founded the childhood development centre in 1995 with only six children under her shack-structured roof.
The number increased significantly to 140 in 2014, which led her to extend the learning space to a double-storey.
"There has always been a need for a preschool within the community, but there was no funding because it did not meet the minimum requirement of having a building structure," said Xaba.
The institute which provides day care for children from 0 months to six years old, barely had the necessary tools for favourable learning conditions.
"When it [was] ccold it was freezing. When it [was] windy the wind was blowing in and out, so it was not in a good condition," Xaba said.
When Xaba reached out to Krok after their informal introduction, she decided to pay the township-based childhood centre a visit.
Krok said when she walked into the school it was a double-storey shack with 140 children. It was summer at the time and it was boiling hot.
"A friend and I decided to do some fundraising for blankets and we hosted a Christmas party," said Krok.
The more time she spent in the community, the more exposed she was to the needs of the children and for the next two years she was adamant to raise funds to rebuild the centre.
"As you learn more about the difficulties in the community, [you realise] that this was not an effective learning environment. They don't get the attention and nutrition the other kids are getting."
"I couldn't sleep at night. It's pouring rain and these kids are in the school. I was walking this journey by myself; I knew nothing about building."
In a bid to raise funds for the restructuring, Krok partnered up with Uthando Social Development Projects, a non-profit organisation based in Cape Town.
Listed as one of their projects on the website, according to Uthando, the Masibulele Centre consisted of informal structures deemed unsafe and unsatisfactory in terms of proper health and sanitation.
"The SA government will only provide financial assistance to ECDs that satisfy health and safety requirements (the subsidy is R15 per child per day). In May 2018, Uthando launched its campaign to raise approximately R1.3m in order to build a clean, decent and quality building for Masibulele," the website stated.
Krok also went on to planning events, including selling second-hand clothes on Saturdays in Khayelitsha with Xaba, reaching out to family and friends and various companies.
She also took to the online crowdfunding website BackaBuddy, setting up a page called #LetsBuildMasibulele to encourage public donations and raise awareness.
"As I walked into Masibulele, I felt a connection. I could see they were trying their best, but the building was in really bad condition," Krok wrote.
"Our goal is to raise R1.5m, which will be used to build a safe and environmentally friendly structure which will not only provide a space for the teachers and children to grow, but a place which will motivate others to keep dreaming and keep striving for success," the page read.
A six-minute documentary was presented at the Swedish event.
"We thought that we would only raise R500 000 from the event, but we were very fortunate to raise over R1m," said Krok.
An additional R150 000 was raised through public contributions.
Although Krok ran with the initiative, she is grateful for the support which came from the collaboration established with Uthando.
"I would not have been able to do this without Uthando and Nwabisa, the principal. It really was a combined effort and I saw how much these ladies put into the school."
According to Krok, there is still uncertainty as to how involved the government will be following the restructuring, although the goal of the project was to get the school back on track so that it could regain funding from government.
However, Krok says if funding surfaces, they will still have to abide by regulations which stipulates that a limit of 80 children will be allowed to attend the school, cutting the current school population by at least 60 children.
"I know we want to give the kids safe spaces, but we need quality education. It doesn't make sense to have 100 children and none of them are being taught properly," Krok said.
According to Xaba, there are also not enough teachers. They are operating with nine staff members.
Xaba added that although the children excel, they are still unable to provide them with proper nutritional meals.
"Food is the biggest problem. We are not giving proper meals. We know in the morning they must eat healthy meals like porridge with milk, but because we don't have milk, we just cook mealie meal pap, which is a starch."
Rebuilding the school is not the end for Krok as she envisions much more for the early development centre. Her goal now is to create sustainability by implementing a sense of community within the school.
"What I hope to achieve and introduce to the school is more holistic living and holistic teaching which includes teachers implementing yoga breathing at the school, planting trees and recycling.
"Hopefully we'll be able to get the parents more involved in the school. It's more of me taking a back step now and guiding them through," Krok said.
"I think there's a lot of misperception of how important it is to be educating and stimulating your child at a young age. Often people think tertiary education or primary education [is more important], but you've got to get the first six years right."
According to the Uthando website, the name Masibulele means thank you and it is a message of gratitude to the families who trusted Xaba and sent their children to the centre.