Touching gospel songs and prayer reverberated through the Site B hall when the City of Cape Town’s Department of Social Development and Khayelitsha Early Childhood Development (KECD) Centres forum held a mass prayer meeting on Friday March 16.
With ECDs facing a number of challenges, organisers opted to seek divine intervention, also praying for the protection of the children who attended the centres.
Social development department representative Nondwe Sonemali, said the centres dealt with vulnerable people and often faced “enormous endless challenges” including the risk of fire because of their location. In some cases, she added, children became ill at the centres.
Ms Sonemali added that they prayed there would be fewer challenges this year because the centres provided an important educational foundation for children and needed all the support they could get.
“We want these centres to be safe spaces for our children,” she said.
“We want them to continue rendering quality foundation phase for our children. It is crucial that we look after these centres.”
However, she said, the department was forced to close centres which did not adhere to crucial safety requirements.
KECD chairperson, Boniswa Mxhakaza, said it was critical that they prayed for the centres and the children and highlighted the lack of land available for the construction of permanent structures as one of their main challenges.
As a result, she said some of the centres were not eligible for government funding.
Even those that got the funding, Ms Mxhakaza said, were unable to operate optimally because the money was “too little” to cover their operational costs.
She said the funding from the department had not increased for nearly five years.
Ms Mxhakaza said the centres struggled to register due to the amount of paperwork that was required, including getting tax clearance certificates from the South African Revenue Services.
Ms Mxhakaza said it was sad that many ECD principals and founders were often not able to pay themselves a salary.
Ward councillor Monde Nqulwana, said he did not support the establishment of ECD centres in informal settlements due to safety concerns and felt that councillors were not doing enough to assist the centres.
He said he decided to take some money from his ward allocation budget to buy some of the required equipment.