It was a sad start to the New Year for residents of a poor community in Port Elizabeth after the local crèche was burnt to ashes. The fire destroyed everything inside, and also burned down a church next door.
Sinethemba preschool, based in Motherwell, burned down on 2 January after children playing a few metres away exploded fire crackers. The crèche was built from wooden boards, poles and metal sheets. It had a fence and iron gates.
The crèche was founded in 2014 by three elderly women from the community.
Sinethemba crèche was the jewel of Motherwell’s NU8 section because of its strategic location close to Crossroad taxi rank. This made it convenient for parents and guardians to drop their children in the morning when going to work.
The crèche catered for 85 children and was planning to increase the enrolment this year. The three women who owned the crèche doubled as educators.
One of them, Nonkululeko Mooi, said they were devastated by the disaster. “This is the only crèche in this area because one was shut down last year. We took 20 children from that crèche. We were expecting more children this year and had plans to extend.”
Co-owner Mavis Slamse estimated the losses at R40,000 including furniture, books and the building material. “The fire also destroyed new books donated last year by the Department of Social Development.”
Fikiswa Joyi, the other owner, said the crèche charged a nominal fee of R120 a month per child. It was open from 7am to 4:30pm to accommodate working parents.
“We can’t charge more because this is a poor community where many people depend on social grants while others work as domestic workers. We don’t receive funding. The books were the first assistance we had.”
“Where are we going to get the money to rebuild the crèche? We had already registered some children for this year. What are we going to tell them? We are just desperate for a shelter to accommodate the children.”
Police spokesperson Captain Andre Beetge said there were no injuries and no sign of arson.
The Under The Tree Early Childhood Centre, which offered free care and food for poor children from the informal settlements of Endlovini, Powerline and Hlalani, burned down on 30 October last year, leaving about 60 children stranded.
The Department of Social Development declined to comment, referring GroundUp to ward councillor Mendisa Makunga, who did not respond to telephone calls.
© 2018 GroundUp.
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