What it is like in Tsepisong and Slovoville?
Our pilot project is in the fairly small but fast-growing Tsepisong and Slovoville area, located near Roodepoort on the West Rand. Both have a mixture of formal RDP housing and informal shack dwellings.
In Slovoville there is an old mine compound which has been turned into family housing. The only light in these houses comes from tiny, high-placed windows on the back wall, and by keeping the door open. There is no electricity, only communal toilets and 25 families have to use one water source.
One of our centres is in an informal area, the ownership of which is still under dispute, and where there is neither water nor electricity. They have septic tank toilets which are emptied by a "honey sucker" once a year.
Some parts are flourishing, with new garden walls going up, flowers and RDP houses being enlarged. Many houses have an extra metal hut in their gardens for rental. Children walk and play in the roads, and young men play soccer on the traffic circles or walk in groups. Hair salons and tiny bars in shacks, market stalls made of bits of wood, sweet stalls laid out on old ironing boards, fast food sold from metal huts and places to buy airtime abound.
The main roads are tarred but dust roads in the informal areas are dreadful. The one leading to one of the centres, Rishile, is full of potholes that reach right across the road and are filled with water, like muddy ponds. Residents say the water is from leaking pipes that were damaged when electricity was installed. My small Cleo bumps nervously through the potholes, and I hope we won’t end up disappearing in one of them.
Mine dumps being "re-mined" surround the area, and when the wind blows the air is thick with dust. Trees are few and far between, and in winter the town is surrounded with dry grass strewn with rubbish. Dead dogs lie on the side of the road for months. I am not surprised that the rats in the area are large and well-fed.
Who are we working with?
We are working with four centres at the moment. One ECD practitioner from an additional facility is attending the course as a non-certification student, as her head teacher is on another course. We hope she will join us for the next cluster.
Eight ECD Practitioners attend the weekly training sessions at Harry Gwala, a local primary school which kindly allows us to use a classroom. We will also be trying to help the school’s Grade R in return for the use of the classroom, and the teacher may attend some of our training sessions.
Each centre is visited at least once a week, and has already had at least one day where they have been shown how to run the Flying Children daily programme and use the theme programme.
Before starting work in the centres, teachers were carefully observed for a day or more, so that they could be properly assessed, and the findings have been written up. This observation will be repeated every six months, to track the changes.
Plans have been made for the "makeover" of each centre, and lists of needs drawn up.
Soon, teachers will also be attending work discussion groups run by psychologists, to help in their work with the children – many of whom can be classed as "vulnerable" or "children at risk", as poverty, bereavement, illness, alcoholism, child and woman abuse, and other kinds of violence, are all too often present in even these very young children’s lives.