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Day care centre rebuilt after fire – for the fifth time

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“I just need the municipality to assist me rebuild,” says principal

Photo of a woman showing a burnt shack
Ncumisa Yoyo shows the fire damage at the Zamani Day Care Centre she founded in Duncan Village, East London. Photo: Chris Gilili
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In July, the Zamani Day Care Centre in Duncan Village, East London, burnt down for the fifth time.

“We lost most of the children’s school work, stationery and other essentials. But our principal keeps us going and motivated,” says Isabelle Quill, who has been a teacher at Zamani since 2010.

The centre is still open. Three of the 12 classrooms survived the fire; one class has been rebuilt, thanks to donations. Nine classrooms are currently functioning.

“I am someone who focuses on how I will get out of a situation rather than complain. I love children and teaching them,” says the principal Ncumisa Yoyo, who established the centre in 1995 in a two-room shack.

In 2003, a fire started from a flame stove. “The parents were cooking for a function that day. The flame stove burst and engulfed the whole place with fire. Before we knew it, all the shack structure was demolished … I managed to pick up the pieces and rebuilt the centre with donations from various people. With major help from students studying at the Brigham Young University (BYU) in the United States,” says Yoyo.

“In May 2004 a fire started from a neighbours shack … Again in 2007, after everyone was gone, in the evening a teacher called and told me the crèche is in flames. I came as fast as I could. Unfortunately, even then, nothing was saved … In December 2015 around 3am I received a call also telling me that my daycare [centre] is burning again … The latest, in July this year, happened around 9am,” says Yoyo. The cause of the latest fire is unknown.

The centre has 300 learners in day care – 250 in Duncan Village and 50 at another branch in New Life. Parents pay R150 for each child and R250 for English classes each month. The Department of Social Development assists with a food subsidy for 60 of the 300 children. Yoyo also receives donations from the National Lottery, which helps pay the salaries of five teachers.

The crèche consists of a container and zinc sheet structures. A brick building has been built after the July fire.

“One of the many challenges we have is not having electricity here. We use a gas stove to cook for children. Our electrical box burnt with the structure in 2015 and was never restored. The municipality said it will have a challenge with bringing electricity here, because of the many illegal connections around the area. I don’t want to blame the (illegal connections) izinyoka, but most of these fires come from neighbouring shacks.”

“The BYU community has always had my back. Every time I had a crisis, they always intervened. I am at a loss for words to explain how grateful I am to them. Even now, after the blaze in July they sent me money to help with rebuilding the centre … I wish the Buffalo City Metro can chip in and assist me with rebuilding all that I lost,” she said.

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