ITHEMBA LABANTU – PRESCHOOL
Most children living in Philippi have difficult lives. They live in small shacks, which are frequently overcrowded, housing friends and relatives who moved to the city to find work. They can be subjected and exposed to alcoholism, drug abuse, violence and often, sexual abuse.
At iThemba Labantu they find unconditional love, acceptance, support and are prepared for a more stable future. In 2006 iThemba Labantu was proud to open the certified iThemba Labantu Preschool in order to provide education and a peaceful environment for underprivileged children (age 3-6) of the community. Since March 2014, Principle Charlene Williams has taught hundreds of children at our bi-lingual (English and Xhosa) preschool, with the help of one teacher and one volunteer.
The children are cared for and are offered a variety of activities to participate in. The preschool’s ethos is one of mutual understanding with clear focus on life skills, personality development, nutrition and language, which is a main focuses of the early education system. The preschool also provides assistance and support to the parents by enrolling the children into English medium Primary Schools (schools that conduct lessons in English as a first language).
The purpose of this is not meant to extricate the children from their culture, but rather to help them understand the English language as it will be most beneficial to them in learning, communicating and finding work in the future, so as not to repeat the cycle of poverty their parents find themselves in.
Missing birth certificates or identification documents are nothing surprising in South Africa’s Townships. However, if parents are not eager to secure the official documents for themselves and their children, youngsters won’t be allowed to be enrolled in schools. People who have completed their school education often struggle with unemployment, but it is even harder for those who never received primary education, to find work. At iThemba Labantu, we are trying to educate these aforementioned children. Youngsters learn the ABC and simple counting between the ages of 7 – 12, while we secure the necessary documents for them to be enrolled at local English speaking schools. Next to education, they also enjoy a healthy meal at our soup kitchen.
The iThemba Labantu Library offers all children and adults the opportunity to borrow books. Twice a week, many come to read and relax in a quiet environment. Most of the people in Philippi do not have books at home, besides their schoolbooks. The knowledge that children acquire while reading, can help them immensely. Books can open minds to different communities, cultures and opinions. Something that is very important in a Rainbow Nation like South Africa.
Besides helping with the personal growth, books teach vocabulary and a good understanding of the different languages in South Africa. Children are exposed to isiXhoas, English and Afrikaans in their academic life and we have books in all three languages.
Without any doubt, we can say that reading helps with their language development.
In past years we have received books from many different organizations such as Biblionef and Nalibali. Book donations from Schools and Libraries in the Cape Town area, helped us to offer many different books and genres for all ages. South African and international authors are represented in our small library.