It took a Limpopo village, and some eager young Brits, to turn a garage dream into a cheery crèche

It took a Limpopo village, and some eager young Brits, to turn a garage dream into a cheery crèche
Rose Molepo started a crèche from a garage in 2008, and has now moved into a new structure that has more space and facilities. (Photo: Lucas Ledwaba / Mukurukuru Media)

A project between a local NPO and a UK university delivers a comfortable learning space for kids.

Rose Molepo flashed a big smile after officially receiving the keys to a brand-new building from where she will run her crèche and daycare centre.

The yellow timber building stands out in design from the drab surroundings of Maripathekong, a rural village at the foothills of the imposing Drakensberg mountains in central Limpopo.

The building, which is the new home of Monang Preschool and Day Care, was designed and built by architecture students from the University of Nottingham in the UK in collaboration with the Thušanang Trust, a nonprofit organisation.

Molepo started running Monang Preschool and Day Care in 2008 in a garage at her parents’ home in the village, which is about 40km from Polokwane.

Children enjoy the new facilities at the recently completed Monang preschool with one of the students who worked on the project. (Photo: Lucas Ledwaba / Mukurukuru Media)

“We had no space to help the children do other activities. That made people sceptical about enrolling their children with us,” said Molepo.

In her quest to acquire knowledge and sponsorship partnerships to grow the crèche, Molepo was introduced to the Thušanang Trust.

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The trust, which is based in the hamlet of Haenertsburg, east of Polokwane, “offers residential training and development opportunities to rural women and men from the surrounding communities in the Capricorn, Mopani and Vhembe districts of Limpopo”.

Through the trust, Molepo underwent courses in early childhood development (ECD) that prepared her to become a registered educator with the provincial education department.

Story time during the official opening of the Monang preschool. (Photo: Lucas Ledwaba / Mukurukuru Media)

The timber-roof building that now houses the Monang preschool was built over six weeks by architecture students from the University of Nottingham. (Photo: Lucas Ledwaba / Mukurukuru Media)

In his State of the Nation Address in February, President Cyril Ramaphosa revealed that “the number of children who receive the early childhood development subsidy has more than doubled between 2019 and 2022, reaching 1.5 million children”.

Ramaphosa said the Department of Basic Education was “streamlining the requirements for ECD centres to access support and enable thousands more to receive subsidies from government”.

Molepo believes moving to the new building will help grow the intake of new children at the facility, which currently has 20 pupils.

“In the rural areas we have many challenges. Running a crèche from home, we couldn’t attract a lot of learners. I think people didn’t really trust us because of the location,” she said.

‘Project for optimists’

Pete Russell, an assistant professor in architecture and the built environment at the University of Nottingham, said the 110m² crèche was built over six weeks by a group of 50 students from the institution’s Design+Built Studio.

The crèche has three classrooms, a sickbay, kitchen, storage room and office. The building also boasts solar lights and charging ports. Outside, the kids can enjoy play facilities.

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Russell said the team took into consideration the area’s climate when designing the building. “It was oriented to be day-lit. The roof overhangs to provide shade on the windows,” he said.

“It’s great for our students to get the experience and be involved. It’s a project for optimists and I hope it does make a difference,” Russell added.

The crèche has three classrooms, a sickbay, kitchen, storage room and office. (Photo: Lucas Ledwaba / Mukurukuru Media)

According to Chrisna Stander, chairperson of the Thušanang Trust, the organisation acts as a training facility for educators to become ECD teachers. It also coordinates plans with communities to identify crèches that need help with infrastructure development. Once this has been done, the trust liaises with the university, which then takes over the design and building of the structures.

Martha Molepo, a resident of Maripathekong, said she hoped the residents would work together to support and protect the building to ensure it could raise a new generation of leaders.

“This is the first building of its kind in our village. She [Rose] previously worked from a garage, which was not ideal. But now we are happy,” she said.

Mmatshipi Molepo, a senior elder in the Molepo Traditional Council, which provided the land for the project, lauded the development as a significant step in bringing change to the village.

The building team took into consideration the area’s climate when designing the crèche. (Photo: Lucas Ledwaba / Mukurukuru Media)

Statistics from the 2011 census showed that the nearby town of Ga-Molepo, which falls under the Polokwane municipality, had a dependency ratio of 96.6%, with 60,9% of the 1,157 households headed by women.

“We are in a rural area far from a lot of things,” said Molepo. “When people come to us with ideas to help us develop, we welcome them with both hands. We were approached by Thušanang, which said it wanted to help. Today we are proud to see this structure here. We love development and we welcome it.”  

As residents, students and other stakeholders raised dust dancing in celebration, Rose Molepo brandished the set of keys to the school.

“This building just makes me so proud,” she said. Mukurukuru Media/DM

Lucas Ledwaba is the founder and editor of Mukurukuru Media.

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    Lovely story….good to see that “Colonialism” is alive and well and doing some good! Would have been a better story, had all those local “South Africans” who had won huge tenders, got big back handers and profited from the demise of Eskom had built this school and many others…investing in the future of South Africa!

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