The newly-built Sikhula Ngokwazi Early Childhood Development Centre in Mhluzi, Middelburg, was handed over to the community on 18 October 2018 by Steve Tshwete local municipality and Izimbiwa Coal, a Glencore and Izimbiwa managed operation.
The centre is the result of a CSI project by Izimbiwa Coal to address the need for adequate infrastructure for Early Childhood Development (ECD) in communities around their operations, and to create a conducive environment for effective learning.
Many communities do not have access to facilities with good nutrition, health and intellectual stimulation that will help children develop their abilities to rise above the environment they find themselves in.
A 2017 UNICEF report1 found that more than 43 per cent of children under 5 are at risk of not fulfilling their full developmental potential, due to poverty, poor nutrition and a lack of basic services and early enriching opportunities.
Tokologo in Mhluzi, Middelburg – one of many such previously-disadvantaged communities – had no adequate ECD centre to cater for children in their pre-school years. Children from the area thus faced a lifetime of poverty due to the lack of foundation care in their early years.
Izimbiwa set out to prevent this from happening. The company approached local contractors MNS Developers and Crane-Fly PTY LTD to assist with the construction of an ECD centre with the suppliers funding labour costs, and Izimbiwa funding building material.
Phase 1 of the project consisted of a kitchen office and toilet. This was followed by Phase 2, construction of six classrooms, a hall, and ablution blocks. In 2018, Phase 3 was commissioned – outside paving and a play area. The project was completed and officially handed over by the Member of the Mayoral Committee for Social, Cultural & Sports Services, Cllr.Johan Mashiane and Izimbiwa’s directors.
“Izimbiwa Coal is proud to have been involved in this project,” said Noel Pillay, Glencore’s Head of Regulatory and Community Affairs. “Early Childhood Development is crucial in giving young people the tools to rise out of their situation and to realise their full potential.”
Also, at the opening was Charlene Nyembe, Director of Izimbiwa Coal. Ms Nyembe said she was speaking as a mother when she noted that “I just want the best for my son; and I would think every mother wants the same, hence the importance of such an ECD centre.”
She noted that “ECD is much more than a drop-off location for working parents, it’s a place of safety and a very important part in the development of children.”
Since construction of the Sikhula Ngokwazi ECD centre was completed, the number of children receiving care in the community has increased from 25 to 75, with future increases in numbers on the horizon.