Wolwerivier's only crèche threatened with closure

Cape Town – The only crèche in Wolwerivier faces closure on August 8 because the City of Cape Town said it was on land zoned for agriculture and it did not comply with building regulations, GroundUp reports. 

Nikki Pretorius started Sunshine Educare in 2012 in Skandaalkamp, an informal settlement about 20km north of Cape Town. But it was moved to Wolwerivier in June last year when all Skandaalkamp’s residents relocated there following a decision by the City to build 500 housing units in the area.

Pretorius told GroundUp that mayoral committee member, Suzette Little, had asked her if she would be prepared to run pre-schools in the area. (Little told GroundUp that Pretorius was told she could put the crèche up temporarily.) She had negotiated with the City for a piece of land and been promised sewerage connections and water.

But these had not been provided. "They only gave one tap. I had to extend it to the crèche at my own cost. We use pota-potas, not flush toilets, even though there are flush toilets everywhere else here."

Nowongile Swebe says parents oppose the closure of Sunshine Educare and they will do anything to make sure that it doesn’t happen. (Mary-Anne Gontsana, GroundUp)

Pretorius said she had been told to close the crèche because the City said she had spilled onto land zoned for agriculture. "But I was here for 11 months before they had objections," said Pretorius. The blue crèche is just a few metres from the entrance to Wolwerivier. When GroundUp visited, children were running around and playing outside and others were taking lessons in the classrooms. At the back of the crèche, spinach, turnips and potatoes were growing in a vegetable garden. It is the only care facility for children in the settlement.

The City's mayoral committee member for human settlements, Benedicta van Minnen, said the crèche fell outside the "approved" area. She said the crèche did not comply with National Building Regulations and health and safety conditions had not been met.

"There are children concerned in this matter and the City cannot simply turn a blind eye," said, adding that the safety of the children was “of paramount importance”.

'Rogue operation'

"Having found that the conditions and health and safety considerations have not been met, the City cannot allow this operation to be operated as a rogue operation," said Van Minnen.

The land belongs to the City's Human Settlements Directorate.

According to regulations, a crèche must have a fire extinguisher, exit signs and escape routes, a secondary fire escape if there are more than 50 children, and approved building plans.

Sunshine Educare does have fire extinguishers and signage at an exit door.

Pretorius said she could not get building plans because the City had "failed to provide a land use or rental agreement" although she had been asking since last year.

The crèche currently accommodates 107 children. Van Minnen said the City had a contingency plan to place the children in nearby schools.

When asked for this plan, the City’s spokesperson, Priya Reddy, told GroundUp: “We are not at liberty to divulge the plan, for operational reasons."

Safety of children

Reddy also said the children would be accommodated at a nearby educational centre. It was not clear where this facility is located as Wolwerivier is several kilometres away from the nearest urban area.

Van Minnen said in terms of a notice issued on May 9 2016, Pretorius had to comply with the minimum requirements by August 8

Meanwhile, parents have signed a petition asking the City not to go ahead with the closure. But Van Minnen says the City had communicated with the community regarding this matter and this was about the safety of their children.

Nowongile Swebe, who helps out at the crèche, has two grandchildren, aged one and three years old. “We are so thankful for Nikki. My grandchild started here at three months; he is three years now. This crèche has given our children a safe environment and we are not even paying a cent. She buys our children clothes, she takes them out, she does so much.

“The City cannot even put up street lights here. They cannot provide school transport for the children who are currently roaming the streets here as you can see. Now they want to take away this crèche. Where was the City when Nikki started this crèche? The hard work she put in, now they want to take it all away.

“As parents we do not want Nikki to leave.”

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