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Sustainable early childhood development in Cape Town

The Mustadafin Foundation

Mustadafin Foundation opened its first Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres in Crossroads in 1992 called ‘Try Again’ and ‘Albertina Sisulu’, which catered for 392 children aged between two and six years old. Today, 25 years later, 21 ECD centres that impact a total of 3 000 children are operational across Cape Town, thanks to the help of the Foundation. Many have become self-sufficient, sustainable and independent.

 "Children are given the opportunity to continuously improve through learning at our centres. We aim to nurture the minds of our future generations and empower children through education," says Ghairunisa Johnstone, director and one of the founders of Mustadafin Foundation. The communities in which the Foundation’s Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres operate are in dire need of better access to basic human rights such as a proper education. "Our newest centre opened last year in Sherwood Park, Manenberg and it currently caters to 60 disadvantaged children in the area," adds Johnstone.

Although enrolled in the ECD centre and on the right path to a better education, barriers to learning that the children often encounter include:

Being emotionally neglected and malnourished, thus not being able to focus on school work;

Language barriers, making it difficult to understand what is being taught; and

Parents/guardians with substance abuse problems, not attending meetings or looking after their children’s basic needs.

In the Tafelsig community, the Isibindi project focuses on community-based care for children. "In this specific area, behavioural problems are a big concern as it stems from negative circumstances at home. For this reason, the work of our teachers are ever more important so that the children can comprehend a lesson and continuously improve."

To overcome these barriers and give children the best possible opportunities to receive a proper education, the Foundation’s ECD centres provide two healthy meals and two snacks a day to help the children focus and get the nourishment they need. To combat short attention spans and behavioural problems, the centres have introduced a ‘play and learn’ session used as an icebreaker in the morning, in between each lesson and before they go home. Teachers focus on reading and writing skills as most children come from illiterate homes. A daily ‘trust circle’ programme allows children the opportunity to speak about anything they want to in a safe environment. This can range from things that may be troubling them or even bringing joy to their lives; ensuring them that whatever is said will remain safe in the trust circle.

Classes are based on a physical, holistic, emotional and spiritual approach. "Our main goal is to instil a sense of community and oneness; educating human beings how to live with other human beings is our main message and it is reinforced throughout the classes in everything that the children learn," says Johnstone. "Every child is unique and we as teachers need to be compassionate, loving and understanding when moulding the minds of our future. Our teachers have a huge responsibility and they are doing a fantastic job of satisfying their learner’s needs and thinking ability!" continues Johnstone.

Parents and/or guardians pay a minimal fee to enrol their children in the Foundation’s ECD centres. Application forms are filled out and children are accepted on a ‘first-come, first-serve’ basis, depending on the space available and the child’s age group. "Not all parents are able to pay the full amount; we accept whatever they can give us and rely on donations to cover the rest. Funding is a major concern for us," she concludes.

To continue with the good work it does, the Foundation relies on funding and donations of food, toys and clothes. It also depends on volunteers to help by contributing their time and skills to uplift the community.

For more information about the Foundation and how you can donate or volunteer, please visit or contact 021-633-0010 / 0060. Mustadafin Foundation is also on Facebook

Article Courtesy SA Good News