Despite the beaming smiles and loud laughter that can be heard from the school on Penzance Avenue, principal Feroza Moses says the government is failing Angel Starfish Educare Centre.
Ms Moses, who has been the principal of the underprivileged school since 2010, sees the future of Angel Starfish as an investment.
“Half of our salaries go towards this school. We are really giving everything we possibly can, so the future generations can benefit from us,” she said.
The majority of the children attending Angel Starfish live in the poverty-stricken township of Mandela Park, which is not too far from the school.
“The children come from the Eastern Cape with their parents, who are looking for jobs. They don’t speak any English or Afrikaans, so we have to start from scratch. Some of the children don’t even know how to say ‘this is my arm’, in their own language,” Ms Moses told Sentinel News.
Angel Starfish Educare Centre is registered with the Department of Social Development, but receives no financial support from them. The Department of Education, however, grants the school with monthly subsidies for 30 children. “We have 120 children here. You do the maths,” said Ms Moses.
The story of Angel Starfish started with Vuyiswa Mhlahlo babysitting 10 children in a tiny shack located in Imizamo Yethu. The shack had no running water, electricity or any play facilities for the children.
In 2004, Gertrude Sgwentu came across the créche and offered to find some financial support for Ms Mhlahlo, who was babysitting to earn an income for her family.
The following year, Ms Sgwentu was introduced to Elaine Mahoney, a former headteacher from England, who was attending education conferences in Cape Town.
Elaine, Gertrude and Vuyiswa came together to develop the créche into what it is today, a provider of Early Childhood Development services, which include delivery of the Grade R curriculum.
Ms Mahoney, who is still actively involved in the school, makes regular visits every year.
With barely any funding from the government, the school is supported through the Angel Starfish Project, a UK charity established by Ms Mahoney.
Regular contributions are made in the form of funds, clothing, Santa shoe boxes and teaching resources.
Buchanan Boyes, a property law firm, also provides the school with a monthly stipend of R1 500 for groceries.
“All the staff get along so well. If they see that I have a certain colour on today, they know not to bother with me. We are like a family,” says Ms Moses.
The staff consists of six employees, including Ms Moses and Ms Mhlahlo.
The children spend their lunch breaks in a sandy playground, scattered with a few wooden jungle gyms.
“People come in here and they see our school. They think that we’re sorted. We’re not sorted. We need new fencing, toys for the girls and boys. We’re also running low on chairs because of more pupils this year,” says Ms Moses.
Ms Mhlahlo says the school has come a long way since its beginning in the township, but there is still so much more to do.
“We’re doing the best we can, but we can take it even further by having suitable resources,” says a determined Ms Mhlahlo.
If you would like to volunteer in the classroom or donate to Angel Starfish Educare Centre, contact Feroza Moses on 021 790 7450 or find the school on Facebook.