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Blessing Eco Preparatory School – hope for children of the forgotten

Blessing Eco Preparatory School – hope for children of the forgotten
Jessie Nkosi is the founder of Blessing Eco Preparatory School in Plastic City, Brakpan. (Photo: Chris Collingridge)

Maverick Citizen has over the past week interviewed five wonderful women leading community projects – this is the last in the series.

When Jessie Nkosi comes to meet us at the gate, she looks flustered and apologises for being late. She says she had to rush to Plastic City (an informal settlement near Brakpan) to help a five-year-old child who was badly burnt in a fire that razed 30 shacks to the ground. 

Originally from Tsakane, a township of Brakpan, Nkosi is the oldest of seven children. She moved to Plastic City in 2015 to try to earn an income for her family by starting a spaza shop. 

At the time, no one in her family was working.

Things changed for Nkosi, 40, when she came across six-month-old Blessing Mlambo who had accidentally ingested household disinfectant at a neighbour’s house and had gone into convulsions. 

Blessing’s parents had left her with neighbours while they tried to eke out a living sorting through mounds of rubbish to find plastic to sell for recycling. 

Nkosi tried to call an ambulance for the child but was unsuccessful. She managed to get a lift in a passing bakkie and rushed Blessing to the Far East Rand Hospital. Her quick actions saved the child’s life. 

Jessie Nkosi teaches children at Blessing Eco Preparatory School about shapes and colours. (Photo: Chris Collingridge)

Blessing is now a healthy Grade R pupil at the crèche Nkosi established in her name.

Nkosi says the incident with Blessing made her realise that it was essential for children living at Plastic City to have a safe place to go to while their parents were out working.  

Helped by her sister Hlengiwe Nkosi, she started a crèche in Plastic City and called it Blessing Eco Preparatory School.

It was a makeshift structure built with discarded recycling materials. 

She said it was very difficult to keep the crèche going as the parents of the children had no money to pay her to look after them. She often ended up using some of the grant money she got for her own child.

Plastic City is an informal settlement occupied mostly by people from Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Some of their children, even though they were born in South Africa, do not have birth certificates. Without this, they are unable to register for child grants from the department of social development. 

Jessie Nkosi in one of the donated containers converted into a classroom for children at Blessing Eco Preparatory School. (Photo: Chris Collingridge)

Nkosi said she had asked Shoprite for a shipping container to convert into premises for the crèche, but this was turned down as the informal settlement was on the land illegally. 

Things took a turn for the better when she met filmmaker Yakima Waner, who was producing a documentary on life in Plastic City. Waner’s family was involved in the running of the nearby Brakpan Hebrew Association, which allowed Blessing Eco Preparatory School to relocate to its grounds. 

Shoprite, in partnership with four other sponsors, was then able to assist with the conversion of containers into classrooms, as well as an office and a kitchen. They also donated food parcels, educational toys for the children and seeds for them to start a food garden. 

Today the crèche takes care of 45 children, 30 of whom are from Plastic City. The other 15 come from poor families in Brakpan. 

Nkosi says she and her sister now have certificates from the Early Care Foundation which provides training for home-based crèches in disadvantaged communities.

She is studying through Unisa for a qualification in early childhood development. 

Nkosi says she would like nothing more than to see her school grow and be able to accommodate more children in need of proper care and feeding. DM/MC

Shoprite has been supporting 300 community projects in an endeavour to mitigate hunger through food gardens and to provide early childhood development services to poor communities. These stories show that there are good people doing amazing work and with a little help from corporates they can reach so many more. This is the last of a series of articles featuring women making meaningful contributions in their communities, that has appeared in Maverick Citizen over the past week. You can read the other articles here, here, here and here.

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