An ordinary woman doing extraordinary work in her community

Ntombinye Nojiyeza runs the Thubalethu Creche in Lacey Road.

THE month of August is a month dedicated to women and the challenges that affect women and paying tribute to those women who lead in their various fields. Around this time the country honours the remarkable contributions women have made and commemorates the inspiring role women have played to secure women’s rights and build a more equitable society for all.

While this might be a noble idea, we are sometimes guilty of recycling the same faces every year, while ordinary women doing extraordinary work go unrecognised for their remarkable contributions to their communities and society as a whole.

Armed only with her love for tiny tots, Ntombinye Nojiyeza has dedicated her life to caring and protecting the young children in Lacey Road, an informal settlement sandwiched between Sydenham and Overport. Nojiyeza, who runs the Thubalethu creche, starts her day at 6am when the first child arrives and only ends when the last child leaves, which can sometimes mean 9pm at night, depending on the kind of work the parent does.

Ntombinye Nojiyeza feeds one of children she cares for at Thubalethu Creche in Lacey Road.

“I love the children, they are my world. It is not a good environment for kids to grow up in, but our job as their parents is to protect and shower them with love. Sometimes it is difficult for me, because some of the parents survive with the grant money, others use it to drown their sorrows and forget to even pay the creche fees. I cannot punish the children for the parent’s fault. I care for the kids all by myself and cannot blame the community for its lack of support. It is a challenge, but they have allowed me to operate here, and that is enough,” she says.

Nojiyeza is one of many women, who work tirelessly on a daily basis to ensure that young children in Lacey Road have a place where they can feel free, where they are safe and cared for. At Thubalethu creche, she cares for more than 12 children, from as young as two months to five years. The creche was established by the community to provide a safe place where children, whose parents were at work during the day, could be cared for. Sadly, Nojiyeza does not have any formal skills in child care or early childhood development, so the children under her care are denied the necessary mental stimulation which is so important for their growth.

One of the children at Thubalethu creche playing outside.

Large numbers of children in the country lack access to acceptable Early Childhood Development care centers and services. This means they also often face a range of health and safety threats. Most ECD centers are not yet registered and thus fall outside the current system of registration and related support. The challenges are both in terms of access enabling more children to access centers which are within the system and improving programmes, skills of practitioners and infrastructural adequacy.

Recently, the eThekwini municipality announced that it had decided to improve early childhood development centres (crèches) in informal settlements in the area. More than 1 100 children from 14 identified early childhood development (ECD) centres will benefit from the initiative to structurally improve these centres in the city. A sum of R1.6m is to be used for infrastructural improvements at 14 selected ECD centres in Amaoti, north of Durban, and uMlazi, south of Durban.

How you can help

Early Childhood Development is a common need in South Africa, where approximately four million children under the age of six live in poverty. It is estimated that only a quarter of disadvantaged children aged three to five have access to an early learning programme. Many children attending informal creches face significant health and safety threats. The challenges include poor infrastructure and facilities, poor socio-emotional and learning environments and poor nutrition.
The Berea Mail is appealing to the community, on behalf of the Thubalethu Creche at the Lacey Road informal settlement, to help with any of the following donations to fill the desperate need the young children who attend this creche need. Anyone who can help either volunteer their services or donate items needed in order to make the creche a happy, bright and safe environment can contact Berea Mail reporter, Rudy Nkgadima on 031-7164444 (w) or 0725391824, who will act as a liaison with the Lacey Road community.

-Glass Windows
-Building material, as they are planning to extend their current structure
-Teaching Material
-Help is also needed to secure and fix the roof which leaks

Rudy Nkgadima

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