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Mandela Day brings joy to 82 young souls​

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Sylvia Chauke and Nozuko Yanta run a tight ship at the Sizanani Daycare Centre in Braamfischerville, Soweto.

They have very little resources but they keep the 82 children they take care of very happy.

So when the Citizen Relationship and Urban Management (CRUM) staff of the City of Johannesburg’s Region C arrived to spend 67 minutes of their time with them in celebration of former president Nelson Mandela’s 67 years of selfless struggle for democracy and social justice on Friday, they found an enthusiastic crowd waiting for them.

Led by Regional Director Mlamleli Belot and Phindile Lakaje, the Deputy Director of the City’s Integrated Community Outreach Programme, the entourage received a rousing welcome from the 82 children and their teachers. Belot and his team did not waste time as they started painting the facility, planting trees and establishing a food garden.

It was a fitting tribute to former president Nelson Mandela, who would have turned 97 on Saturday July 18.

In what would have made Madiba proud, the animated children – aged one to six – enthusiastically sang “Happy Birthday” as Belot and his senior officials watched in delight. Chauke, the principal; and Yanta, her deputy, were grateful for the gesture.

“This is so amazing. Nothing like this has ever happened to us. I don’t know how to thank all these kind people,” said Chauke. “Our prayers have been answered and we are grateful. Hopefully, this is the beginning of a long-term relationship, a first step.” Between blowing and handing out balloons to the excited children in the hall, Yanta, who teaches the Grade R class, thanked the City for the assistance.

“We only have one sponsor who supplies us with six boxes of food once a month. Of the 82 children, 18 come from very poor homes, so they cannot even afford the fees. The rest pay R250 a month each. From that we pay R1 500 rent, R1 000 for water and R900 for electricity. We use gas to cook.

“The six teachers get a stipend. We do this out of love,” said the mother of two. “When you do something out of love, you enjoy it.”

Instead of complaining about their plight, the six women have learnt to improvise to ensure the children get the solid grounding they deserve. “I’m at level 5 of the Early Childhood Development course, which qualifies me to teach Grade Rs. I improvise because we don’t have money to buy books and equipment. So I make do with what I have and I also rely on what I have learnt in my training and what I was taught as a young girl,” said Yanta.

Chauke added: “We always need help … We need more playground equipment, stationery and toys. We also need help with food. As I said, many people in this area are poor. They have no jobs and cannot afford anything. Just the other day, a shack belonging to the parents of two of our children burnt down and the family was left with nothing,” Chauke said as she introduced the two siblings: cheerful five-year-old Njabulo and her brother, “Pumpkin Patch”.

A kind church member brought them a few clothing items “but they still need more help”. The children are served breakfast and lunch, and a snack before going home.

Chauke opened the centre on 11 April 2009. It is housed in the Braamfischerville Community Church. There are three classrooms in the outbuildings, an office, kitchen and toilets for the children and staff. When the children return to school on Monday July 20, they will play on the newly painted jungle gym.

The buildings also have a new coat of paint. The food garden should start producing vegetables soon. The premises are free of rubble and overgrown grass thanks to Friday’s cleanup campaign.