A bureaucratic bungle has left a Hangberg preschool without its monthly R39 000 state subsidy since the middle of last year, according to the principal.
Wavecrest Educare Centre principal Desne Williams says the grant was cut off in June last year after the provincial education department, which had a few months earlier taken over responsibility for early childhood development centres from the provincial department of social development, asked her to provide a lease, building plans and fire-safety certification – documents that without which the preschool could not be registered.
Ms Williams, who has run the 43-year-old preschool for the past 26 years, says she has long battled to get a lease from the City, which she maintains is her landlord. But there seems to be some confusion about this because the City’s media office, in a brief response to our questions, claimed the provincial government owned the site, which is next to the Hangberg Sport and Recreation Centre in Karbonkel Road, and the City was working with it to resolve the matter.
According to Ms Williams, the preschool has 11 staff and 104 children and its other sources of income include fund-raisers, monthly R600 school fees and some donor funding.
Author, Bryan Royston, who lives nearby and has stepped in to try to unravel the red tape, said he had sent a flurry of emails to several City and provincial departments and it seemed the City had lost the building plans.
Ward councillor Roberto Quintas said the preschool was “doing great work for our youngsters”, and while he had helped it with donations in the past, he had only become aware of the lease issue this year.
“Steps are being taken to remedy this, and for that I am grateful,” he said.
Bruce Anderson, the chairperson of the Hout Bay and Llandudno Community Education Trust, which gives financial aid to Wavecrest, said he had first contacted Mr Quintas about the issue in December last year, and he had since been copied in on emails to mayor Geordon Hill-Lewis and more than 30 City and provincial government officials.
“Meanwhile, Wavecrest staff are not being properly paid. The City must get its own house in order as a matter of urgency,” he said, adding that the preschool’s staff should get backpay.
“The department of education should also apologise to Wavecrest staff and commend them for their dedication in doing their jobs under the trying circumstances.”
Ms Williams said many of the teachers, cleaners and kitchen staff had been working at the school for more than 30 years.
Following the grant cut, the staff had opted to take a 10% salary cut and had also sold food and held dress-up days to raise money for the school, said Ms Williams.
Elizabeth Adams, who runs a class for 3-to-4 year-olds, said that if she could speak to Education MEC David Maynier she would say, “It’s not about me, it’s the children. They need the educare. If I’m unhappy they’ll be unhappy.”
Atieka Oliver has been at the educare for 27 years, teaching the 1-to-2 year-olds. “There are no other jobs, and we know we are going to get our money one day. Anyway, the 105 children have nowhere to go,” she said.
Mr Maynier said Wavecrest Educare was an established preschool. “We want to see it continue to do the important work it is doing in the community.”
He said the department was working closely with the school to help it meet the requirements for registration so that “children can learn in an environment that meets registration and safety requirements”.
“Both the province and the City are committed to helping Wavecrest Educare Centre to become registered as quickly as possible,” he said.