When Maranatha Trust established Onse Skool in an old cellar in rural Aprils Kloof near Malmesbury in 2013, the pre-school began with 14 children from the surrounding grape farms. Says Trust co-founder Delana Sadie, ‘Parents initially complained about having to pay R200 a month to send their kids to a crèche when they could stay for free with a grandmother.’ But informal childminders, often unemployed, had exposed many children to abuse, and positive change was needed.
It came. Aside from their curriculum, the pre-schoolers were taken on outings, to the Two Oceans Aquarium and Butterfly World, among others. The school started a vegetable garden and the children harvested potatoes, carrots and spinach. One of 2016’s most touching events was the games evening, where it was clear some parents played with their children for the first time. ‘Some fathers were so uncomfortable but warmed to the idea through the evening, and it became acceptable to be silly with your kid,’ reports Delana. ‘The joy was infectious.’
Parents have learnt the importance of stimulating small children, and now take pride in their kids, she says: ‘It took some time, but now we have fifty children. Fifty kids who believe that they are valuable and loved can reach very, very far. They are agents of change in their families and encourage a sense of responsibility in their community.’
Onse Skool’s staff members, all previously unemployed and untrained as educators, have been empowered beyond all initial expectations. The Trust is currently training more unemployed women to staff its aftercare facility, opening at the local primary school in 2017. ‘This project is small but its influence is significant,’ Delana says. ‘At least 50 families have been changed.’