Thabo Malateja took the unusual decision of continuing to operate his mother’s childcare centre
When Thabo Malateja’s mother passed away in 2010 he was forced to make some tough decisions. Apart from the pain of losing his mother, he also had to decide what to do with her shack, which provided shelter but also served a bigger, nobler purpose — it was an oasis of education for vulnerable, abandoned and poor children of Zandspruit Extension 9, also known as Transit Camp. Malateja’s mother founded Dinoko Day Care in 2004 when she realised there was a dire need for it in the community.
Many would have simply opted to shut the centre down, but Malateja surprised many in the community when he decided to continue his mother’s legacy. It was a particularly unusual decision considering the fact that the Early Childhood Development (ECD) sector is traditionally dominated by women. Malateja said his mother was passionate about looking after young children and he wanted to run Dinoko as a way of paying tribute and keeping her memory alive.
When his mother died Malateja was a marketing and advertising student at Rosebank College and her death forced him to quit due to financial constraints. “At the moment I am studying with Unisa towards a degree in education. Because of this background I am in charge of curriculum matters, help with lesson and diary planning as well as providing general assistance to teachers. I also network with key players in the sector, particularly potential funders,” said Malateja.
He said his involvement made him appreciate the critical role care centres play in the communities they serve. “They provide a firm foundation for a child’s academic journey. A child who has been through pre-school fits in well with the school environment. And as for schoolteachers, their task is also made easy, as they do not have to start from the scratch.”
He said the experience also makes him see life in a different light. “I feel I have grown emotionally. I am more sympathetic and have a better understanding of people’s plight. But some parents still don’t believe that I — because of my age and gender — can run the centre efficiently,” said Malateja.
He credits Joint Aid Management South Africa (Jamsa), which assists community-based care facilities with services including food, training and renovation and provision of basic infrastructure. “Their intervention helped me a great deal. For instance, my shelter was made of corrugated iron, which becomes extremely hot in summer and cold in winter. They came and built me a decent shelter, which is habitable under all kinds of weather conditions,” he said.
“If it were not for them I don’t think I would be able to sustain the centre’s operations, particularly because most parents pay their school fees very late,” said Malateja, whose long-term dream is to build his own private school.
A few streets away from Malateja’s centre is another facility run by Adelaide Madonsela, which she founded in 2010. “The reason I formed this facility is because I saw a lot of children loitering around without any supervision. In unfortunate instances some of the kids go missing or are sexually molested,” said Madonsela.
She said she had to leave her job at a local pre-school where she used to work as a volunteer to open up her own facility. “Naturally I love working with children, and this is what motivated me to start this centre. My dream is to have a centre that will operate on weekends, after hours and also provide overnight services.”
Madonsela said her most serious challenges are a lack of sufficient space and the inability of many parents to pay fees on time. “This makes it difficult to buy essentials such as food and toys for the children. I often fight with my daughter, because I bring some of the food items she buys for us at home to feed children here at the centre.” Madonsela is also a beneficiary of Jamsa, which donates essentials such as toys, food, utensils and blankets.
“It was such a relief. I don’t know what I could have done without their help. They also built me a kitchen, toilets, an administration office and three classrooms,” said Madonsela. She is full of praises for the materials from which the new structure is made. “In winter they are warm and in summer they provide a cool environment. In the past I used to spend over R1 200 a month on paraffin heaters. But their fumes were noxious and posed a serious health risk to the children. I am grateful to Jamsa to have [kept] this facility up and running.”