When the Masakhane Grassroots Educare Centre in Mbekweni, outside Paarl, began in 1998, there were only four teachers and 80 children meeting in a very small room.
“When I started Masakhane I never could have imagined how much it would grow in 19 years. At one stage, when we moved to a new plot of land, we had no perimeter fence and the children sat under a tree,” remembers Joyce Mokapane, founder and principal of Masakhane.
Despite these challenges, Masakhane has gained a reputation over time as one of the best centres in the area, providing learning opportunities to youngsters before they move on to primary school.
The latest extension of a second Grade R classroom has enabled the centre to expand capacity yet again, and there are now 235 children between the age of 18 months and six years, in six different classes.
The much-needed extension to the existing buildings, which cost R800 000, was built by Coca-Cola Peninsula Beverages (CCPB), in partnership with Newlands Rotary Club.
Feeding 235 children each day is no small task. The new kitchen is a blessing to the staff who have sufficient space to prepare rice, mince-meat, pap, samp, beans, soup and bread for the youngsters.
This is the second time CCPB has invested in a building project for Masakhane, and in 2010 built three classrooms, an administration office and toilets, at a cost of R1 million.
“We are thrilled to continue partnering with Masakhane, which is serving a great need in this community,” says Priscilla Urquhart, CCPB public affairs and communications manager.
“It is wonderful to see how these buildings are being used. There is no doubt that an investment in Early Childhood Development (ECD) projects like Masakhane is an investment in our future,” she said.
The Rotary Club of Newlands has been working with this ECD centre since 2009.
Rotarian John Winship says: “As Rotarians one of the rewards is knowing that these enthusiastic children are being nourished, stimulated and socialised providing them with the valuable grounding to give them a great start in primary school. Joyce and her team are dedicated to the education and development of these fortunate young children.”
At the opening celebration, the children entertained the dignitaries and guests with joyful singing and dancing.
Speaking at the event, Ms Mokapane said that she was thrilled with the new extension adding that the growth of the centre has also helped her to create jobs. “We now have 13 full time staff at Masakhane,” she said. Never one to tire from a new dream, Ms Mokapane is already talking about her next project, which is to open a school for Grade 1 to Grade 4 for children in Mbekweni.