2011 Cape Town «Birth to three» project

Report from the work in Cape Town February/March 2011….

A week before I left for Cape Town this year I received the sad message that Nomangesi Mzamo Mbobosi had passed away.

Nomangesi was one of the Pioneers in the training/education work in the Townships around Cape Town.   She was employed by CCE (Center for Creative Education).  I met her in the beginning of 1999.  Her enthusiasm, engagement, joy and hospitality were something I will always remember. On one of my first days of being involved in the early childhood work she invited me to her home in Khayelitsha (Township in Cape Town) and we talked and talked and talked;  never a dull moment with Nomangesi.

Unfortunately I did not get to her funeral, but I went to see her husband, Major, and gave him a CD of a recorded interview with Nomangesi that the Norwegian Broadcasting had made in 2002. In the interview, she talked with hope about the future and said that she believed that one day South Africa will be able to put the Rainbow Nation into practice to become a multicultural nation sharing the knowledge of its many cultures. She said that Waldorf education had brought her back to her roots and had reminded her of the person she really was.

I think she was right, there is hope, even though we see the work we do moving very slowly forward and we have a feeling of creating just “a drop in the ocean” when we want to fill the whole ocean.

The baby-care project is one of these drops, which will hopefully influence as many children as possible giving them a different future, one filled with hope.
During the first week of my stay this time, we went to various kindergartens to establish where we would start the project, and after many rounds of discussions, we decided on Nomvula’s Educare Centre, “Masakhe”.   She was building on to her Centre, with the help of young German volunteers and the initial plan was to complete a new room for the babies, which we did.
Ca 50 children in one room                                                  more space for the children to play!

When I first arrived, all the children attending Masakhe were together in a small room, more than 20 babies and around 30 children from 3-6 years. There was little, or no, space for the children to move in which naturally put a limit on the kind of activities they could do during the long day (from 0630 until 1800). Therefore, it became extremely important that the baby room be finished quickly so that we could transfer them.
Together with the volunteers, the workers started laying the floor and painting the ceiling and walls.  The plumber arrived to connect water pipes to the room.  New windows and doors were put in; new curtains made and so on….
I found a Township carpenter who makes cots, and asked whether he could make some for us in only two weeks – and he did!  Another workshop made play boxes, a cupboard, drag boxes, and cut logs.   We bought mattresses, towels, blankets and baskets……we even managed to sew some balls! These were certainly very busy weeks and between all the practical work, we had many talks with Nomvula and the baby-carer Nolubabalo about how to meet the needs of babies, how to create a good daily rhythm, how to feed them and how to care for them.

Unfortunately, there was a “taxi-strike” going on which negatively influenced our work and, of course, life in the Townships generally.  We could not travel to Masakhe for three days.   It was very frustrating for me, knowing that I was leaving within a week.

However, we did succeed in finishing the room. The day before I left, the cots arrived.  The room had a beautiful floor with carpets, everything was painted, the curtains were up, and the children had space to move and to play for the first time.   It was wonderful to see how the little ones changed from simply lying or sitting on the floor doing nothing because they were not able to walk around or even to move very much.   Suddenly they were moving, playing with the balls and logs, crawling in and out of the baskets and up and down the play boxes.   Everybody had their own spoon, towels, and wash-cloth, and some of them were sleeping in the cots and not on the floor.

It was amazing to see what a change had taken place in such a short time.   There is still a long way to go – it is not enough to have a beautiful room if the staff has not been trained.  Training and mentoring is maybe the most important issue of the whole project work.  In addition, the baby-carers have to make a commitment to the work.

Small drops are being added one by one.  As Nomangesi said in her interview, we are building human beings and we have to start early, we have to share our knowledge and work together.

So again, we give heartfelt thanks to IASWECE; to Stjerneglimt Kindergarten in Arendal, CCE, all my colleagues, and all our donors and friends who are supporting this work.

Arendal 10.05.2011

Eldbjørg Gjessing Paulsen

playing with the baskets J                                                                     the new cots

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