Close friends Mihlali Pala and Siyolise Nyingwa might only be four years old but they are already preparing for a future which involves them becoming medical doctors and saving the lives of sick people once they reach adulthood.
Their aspirations are as a result of being able to benefit from a well-resourced pre-school thanks to the work of Noziphiwo Jafta, who started the My Little World Pre-School and in May this year received R1-million from the National Lotteries Commission to purchase containers – turned into state-of-the-art classrooms – for the 35 children schooled there.
The youngsters were born in Xhongora village, one of the most downtrodden areas in the rural hinterlands of Mthatha, where there is very little access to modern infrastructure and technologies.
As in other rural areas, many children from Xhongora have had to start school without having enjoyed the benefits of an adequately equipped pre-school which ultimately leads to many being a little out of step with their peers.
But the two little girls can now dream of a brighter future thanks to the efforts of Jafta, who started the pre-school in the village about five years ago.
Mihlali and Siyolise have been part of the set-up for the past two years and will graduate to start their Grade R at another village school next year.
Jafta, who is the director of the school, said she had decided to venture into pre-school teaching after being at a local high school for 15 years.
This was after she stumbled on research which revealed that many high school pupils, especially those from rural areas, were unable to complete Grade 12 because of ground lost as a result of not attending pre-school.
“I took a vow to help improve the results in our schools and left to open this pre-school,” she said.
“We secured a one-roomed mud flat from one of the villagers, which we used as a classroom. But we were told that it was not safe and later we circulated around mud homes in the village.”
However, things started looking up in 2015 when Jafta, with the help of a school committee, managed to secure a piece of land from the chief of the area.
After knocking on many doors for help with funds, they eventually stumbled upon the National Lotteries Commission site where they were able to submit an application for funding.
In May this year, they received more than R1-million for infrastructure from its trust fund which was used to purchase containers that have been turned into classrooms.
Jafta, however, said there were times when she almost gave up on her dream, especially when she was sent from pillar to post when asking for financial assistance.
On Friday, Jafta and her children officially unveiled their new modern pre-school to the greater community of Xhongora.
Among the excited little faces who sang and danced for parents who attended the event, were little Mihlali and Siyolise who volunteered to take the Saturday Dispatch team on a tour of the school.
Both said they wanted to be medical doctors when they grow up.
“We want to inject sick people so that they will get up,” they said.
However they said this would not apply to their mothers, Andisiwe Pala and Nosakhele Nyingwa, as they would only be given pills and medicine because “injections are too painful”.
Siyolise’s mother, Nyingwa, told the Dispatch that her daughter loved school so much that she cried when she found out that she could not go to school on Saturdays.
Mihlali’s mother, Pala, meanwhile said her daughter was always the first one up on every school day.
“She wakes everyone up and orders everyone around, saying she needs to get ready for school.”
Jafta, who also runs another My Little World Pre-School in Zimbane Valley – a new township in Mthatha – said their vision was to change the lives of rural children by making them fall in love with going to school.
“Our vision is to open a school in each rural village around Mthatha, so we can reach the lives of all rural children,” she said. — firstname.lastname@example.org