Educare’s battle for funding

Mandisa Racaza talks about some of the challenges she is facing to keep the doors of her educare centre open.

Educare centre founder Mandisa Racaza says her Gugulethu centre is on the verge of closing its doors if it does not receive much-needed financial support.

Ms Racaza said she started the centre eight years ago because of the love and passionate she has for children. When she started the centre, she had 28 children while her centre was still unregistered with the Department of Social Development.

In 2018 she applied for the centre to be registered with the department and registration was approved.

She was excited the possibility of receiving funding from the department, which she applied for. And in 2019, she said, she was informed that it had been approved.

However, her joy was short-lived as she waited for months without receiving any indication from the department as to when the centre would receive the funding.

Ms Racaza said in that time she never received any communication from the department and decided to reapply this year as she was in greater need of financial assistance – and she was approved again.

Ms Racaza said she was informed that she should expect funding in July. However, again she did not receive the funding. She has visited the offices of the provincial Department of Social Development a number of times to make enquiries but she said she was sent from pillar to post without being assisted. Ms Racaza said it was sad and traumatising that her centre had not received financial support from the provincial government while other centres had been supported financially.

She said her centre currently has 20 children and the fees that the parents pay are not enough to cover the centre’s operational costs. She fears that if she does not receive additional funding and support, she won’t have any other choice but to close the centre down.

Ms Racaza said some of the children who attend the centre come from some of the poorest families and can’t afford to pay the fees. She said because she cares too much about their well-being, she cannot turn the children away.

“I can’t pay the teachers and I need to pay them because they have worked. I can’t run the centre alone, I need their support. I’m drowning in debt just to keep the doors of this centre open. The fees that the parents pay for their children are not enough to cover the operational costs of running the centre.

“When my application for financial support was approved I was excited because I knew that it was going to be helpful. I’m running away from loan sharks who want their monies. I honestly have sleepless nights. My life is also at risk,” she said.

Ms Racaza said her centre had been closed since the implementation of the national lockdown and in the ensuing months she has been struggling to put food on the table.

Ms Racaza said parents are paying R200 a month while there are 10 parents who are not paying because they were unable to do so. She shares whatever amount is left with the two teachers who are assisting her and many times she would be left with nothing.

She said over the years she has been running the centre on a shoestring budget and has remained heavily indebted.

Ms Racaza said it saddens her that other centres are receiving funding while she does not receive any support although she meets all the required criteria.

Joshua Chigome, spokesperson for Sharna Fernandez, the MEC for Social Development, said the centre is conditionally registered.

Mr Chigome said the facility has been approved for funding from their conditional grant funding. He said the transfer payment agreement (TPA) has been forwarded to the department’s early childhood development (ECD) manager and he has confirmed that he has received the TPA.

He said Ms Racaza will receive funding as soon as the signed TPA and attachments are received with the signed BAS accounting form, which was also supplied.

Mr Chigome said centres can apply to the department for funding provided that they meet all the required criteria. For more details, call the department on 021 483 5045 or log on to https://www.westerncape.gov.za/dept/social-development/ to see what the department’s requirements are for funding of ECD facilities.