What is it like in Tshepisong and Slovoville?
We began working on the West Rand with a pilot project is in the fairly small but fast-growing Tsepisong and Slovoville areas, located near Roodepoort on the West Rand. That was in 2011. Both areas 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 Clio 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.
We began working with four centres in these areas in 2011. One ECD practitioner from an additional facility attended the course as a non-certification student. Eight ECD practitioners attended weekly training sessions at Harry Gwala, a local primary school which kindly allows us to use a classroom. Each centre was visited at least once a week, to be 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 progress could be properly assessed. Those centres were then "made over", to ensure basic health, safety, play and educational requirements were met.
Tha't how it began. Since then, we have kept growing, as women with pre-school centres keep kocking on our doors to seek support. Only financial and capacity constraints have prevented even greater growth ...