BRIEF | PORT ELIZABETH 

PE crèche burns down

Under The Tree Early Childhood Centre provided free care and food for 60 children

Photo of a burnt down structure
The remains of Under The Tree Early Childhood Centre in Motherwell. Photo: Joseph Chirume
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Fire destroyed the Under The Tree Early Childhood Centre in Port Elizabeth between 7 and 8am on Monday. GroundUp wrote about the opening of the crèche for children from three informal settlements – Endlovini, Powerline and Hlalani in Motherwell – in February.

No one was injured. The exact cause of the fire has not yet been identified.

The crèche had 60 children enrolled and was run by a staff of six educators and one cook.

Tia Wessels, a director at the Family Restoration Services, a not-for-profit organisation running the crèche, said she is devastated. “All my efforts to bring a brighter future to the children of this community have been shattered.”

She said the security guard had finished his night shift duty. “He went to fetch water and the cook went out for a while. They left the gate and the doors open as they were returning immediately. They found the place up in flames on their return.”

Wessels said, “We had reached the final stages of preparations for graduating children in order for them to qualify for Grade R next year. I will definitely fulfil this obligation by looking for an alternative accommodation for that. It is unfortunate for other kids because they will have to stay at home until I get assistance from well-wishers to rebuild again.”

Wessels, who will be turning 80 soon, said, “I have worked all my life as a child welfare official. It pains me to see this situation and it is very difficult to understand that some of the kids will have to sit at home. Most of the parents here don’t work and cannot afford to send their children to centres that ask for money. The community needs help.”

Sibiya Mfundisi, a resident of Powerline, said, “We are also prepared to assist with guarding the crèche.”

Police spokesperson Captain Andre Beetge said investigations into the cause of the fire were continuing.

The crèche when it opened. Photo: Joseph Chirume

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