Africa

Wednesday 30 July 2014

It's all laughter and smiles inside a tiny crèche in Imizamo Yethu, Cape Town, South Africa

Jane Last Cape Town

Published 27/03/2014|18:07

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Children outside a crèche in the township of Imizamo Yethu, Cape Town, South Africa.
A first encounter with the iPad.
Volunteers with children from the Imizamo Yethu, Cape Town, South Africa.

TWENTY toddlers play in a shack made of corrugated iron.

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This is a crèche in the township of Imizamo Yethu, Cape Town, South Africa.

The children – aged between one and four – play in dark rooms as cars zoom past the dirt track directly outside.

Hygiene is basic – there is just one toilet – and toys are a commodity.

The playroom is dark and the atmosphere is silent – the children are well behaved.

The children are placed here each morning by their parents who work in nearby Cape Town.

Despite the bleakness of their surroundings and basic sanitation, the children are spotless.

And they smile. A lot.

They stretch their arms upwards, looking for an embrace – and have more than enough curiosity to point to your smartphone so they can have a quick look.

“We would like to give them a proper structure – and an area in which they can run around and play,” community leader Man O Man explained.

This tin shack is one of tens of thousands of similarly built structures in Imizamo Yethu.

Not surprisingly, living in such conditions is fraught with danger.

After Irish volunteers with Mellon Educate visited the crèche, they walked the small distance to a cluster of shacks which was the scene of a devastating fire earlier this week.

Some 25 shacks – homes to dozens of adults and children – were destroyed following a fire which swept through the area on Monday night. One person died.

On Tuesday morning, there were scenes of great distress as Irish volunteers  with Mellon Educate helped locals clear debris from the site.

On Friday, work was well underway on constructing new shacks, with the same corrugated roof sheeting materials used in neighbouring homes.

As the volunteers made their way through the township to view the site, children played happily, holding up their hands to ‘high five’ the visitors.

The Niall Mellon Township Trust built a number of permanent dwellings in this area over the years – structures which stand proudly to this day.

The South African government has since started a social housing scheme – many will hope that this scheme will eventually banish the shacks.

But there is a long way to go.

For now, the Irish charity are concentrating on education – a move they hope will give the children in the township crèches a brighter future.

Once the children in this creche reach the age of five, they will go to the local pre-school, a permanent structure.

And when they reach the age of seven, they will go to Oranjekloof primary school – the school at which some 220 Mellon Educate volunteers are working on this week as part of their building blitz.

The newly refurbished and extended school will be completed tomorrow – and will make a huge difference to the lives of the 1,300 township children who attend the facility on an annual basis.

And it will have a brand new play area and garden – something which these children will truly appreciate.

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