‘Beautiful souls’ show their spelling prowess

Ayana Ntenteni, Linomsa Mhlamo, Khayone Qina, Akhanani Jaxa, and Iminathi Mkhonto from Khayelitsha ECD 2 were deep in thought before they gave their next answer.

Children from the Lansdowne-based Mustadafin Foundation’s learning centres impressed judges at its spelling bee competition, where they were tested in Afrikaans, English, isiXhosa and Arabic.

Mustadafin director, Ghairunisa Johnstone-Cassiem, said the organisation started the learning centres when they realised that many school-going age children, especially in Tafelsig, Mitchell’s Plain, were not attending school. Many of the centres are Early Childhood Development (ECD) institutions, but there are others who cater for older children – even up to matric.

“We discovered about four years ago, that up to 1000 children in Tafelsig alone, did not attend school. When we looked at all the aspects of the child, we realised that it was not enough to feed and clothe them. We realised that a lot of them were not able to read and that we were not encouraging reading enough. Over the years, we have established ECD centres and made it self-sufficient, and moved on, but we still have centres in Delft, Khayelitsha, Manenberg, Sherwood Park and Tafelsig,” Ms Johnstone-Cassiem said.

She added that some of its centres cater for babies from 6 months, up to 6 years of age, but that there are others who accommodate children up to the age of 12. The older children also do foundation phase learning, as they have not attended school.

Ms Johnstone-Cassiem also proudly announced that from the 1 000 children they worked with in Tafelsig, 300 have been placed in mainstream schools. On Friday July 27, a total of 16 more children were being assessed by the Western Cape Education Department (WCED), for possible placement at mainstream schools.

“Many of our children have been emotionally scarred – all of them have gone through emotional, physical and psychological trauma. However, after just six months at our centres, one can see significant changes.

“They are all beautiful souls who just want to be part of a school. Many of them have excelled. A total of 16 are at college, and in March this year, 16 of them matriculated. We learn to teach and teach to learn. We have learnt so much from these young men and women. Their future is now in their hands, because they were given an opportunity. I pray people out there will further invest in their tertiary education. Some of the parents saw the changes in their children and have decided to make positive changes themselves. One mother is now in rehabilitation because she wants to be part of her children’s lives. The change has a ripple effect,” Ms Johnstone-Cassiem said.

Masoed Martin from Sherwood Park said he is very impressed with how his children are progressing at the centre.

“I am quite surprised at how my 5-year-old boy is learning. I can see a big difference. Both he and my 4-year-old daughter are there. What I see today is excellent. I like that my children can be multilingual,” Mr Martin said.

Faheema Kruger, who heads up the Khayelitsha ECD 2 centre, said the children were excited about the competition and enjoyed preparing for it.

The Mustadafin Learning Centre in Tafelsig and Khayelitsha ECD 3 centre tied at third place, Khayelitsha ECD 1 centre was placed second, and the Mustadafin Delft ECD 2 centre was crowned the winner.

For more information about Mustadafin, which is based at 30 Turfhall Road, Lansdowne, call 021 633 0010, 021 633 0060 or WhatsApp 079 567 3645.