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Nurturing the young minds of Chintsa East

Reuben Sigqaza, 53, and Lindiwe Sigqaza, 52, opened the Ikhwezilomso Educare to give children in Chintsa East a better start to their education.
Reuben Sigqaza, 53, and Lindiwe Sigqaza, 52, opened the Ikhwezilomso Educare to give children in Chintsa East a better start to their education.
Image: SUPPLIED

A yellow-painted zinc structure is a hub of learning to over 80 young children who spend their weeks at the Ikhwezilomso Educare creche NPO in Chintsa East.

Opened by Local Hero nominees Rueben and Lindiwe Sigqaza in 2015, the tiny tots learn how to read and write in English to nurture their minds and educate them for future schooling.  

“It was my wife’s dream to open a creche. We knew kids were being left at home with family who would leave them to go to the shebeens. Most parents are single mothers who work as domestic workers. We wanted to make a safe space for children,” Sigqaza said. 

Ikhwezilomso started as a small room in the couple’s backyard but soon grew and relocated to space on community-owned land open Monday to Friday from 6.30am to 4.30pm.

When I arrive they all say 'good morning daddy' in English and give me a big hug, and I have to hug all of them, even if my wife is teaching and the lesson gets interrupted for hugs

The centre has eight staff members and three volunteers who care for the 23 babies in the nursery and 66 children aged 2 to 5 years old.

“We have classrooms for each age group and around 20 in each class. My main role is administration and management, but I love children. When I arrive they all say 'good morning daddy' in English and give me a big hug, and I have to hug all of them, even if my wife is teaching and the lesson gets interrupted for hugs.” 

Registered as an NPO, Ikhwezilomso charges a monthly fee of R200 for those under 2 years and R150 for those under 5 years to be able to pay their staff.

“The fees from parents are not a lot and pay for maintenance and staff salaries, but I tell them I know it’s not a lot so if you get a better job, go and get it. We have just been chosen as the recipients of a grant to build a new creche but we are waiting on a lease agreement from the municipality for the land. “ 

Reuben said the NPOs biggest challenge was not having a proper structure or funds to offer daily nutritional meals to the children. 

“We receive donations for two weeks of the month from the Chintsa East Church, but our dream is to offer proper nutrition for them. We also want to give our staff proper salaries for the work they do.”

I want to see different skills in the village, see doctors and teachers

Teacher and co-owner Lindiwe Sigqaza, 52, said educating children had always been her passion. 

“I love these kids, I want them to grow,” she said. “In the past, most children struggled in school because they didnt have a solid educational foundation. I want to see different skills in the village, see doctors and teachers. Mostly we didnt see learners finish school but now it makes me happy that even the slow learners are building their confidence in education. I see my kids go on to school ready to learn.”

Lindiwe said the Local Hero nomination had left her speechless. 

“I cant believe it, I want to cry. I never saw myself as a Local Hero, this is just my passion, but we appreciate it so much.”

Nominee Temie Makefungana and 2021 Local Hero Finalist from the  Chintsa East Drop-in Centre said she had nominated the couple for their involvement in the community. 

They help the little ones to understand English at an early age and how to write,” she said. “They provide the best service ever at Ikhwezilomso Educare.  Each and every parent can drop their child and then go to work.  They are  good negotiators for peace in the community and very reliable — if they are involved in a thing that makes the community grow up, they make sure they work until it comes true.”

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