Thomas Prévost 22, and Roderick Mackinnon 22 will embark on a seven-day hike up the highest mountain in Africa, July 24— to raise awareness and funds for an early childhood development center (ECD), near Johannesburg.
For the summer, the students interned at Global Impact Fellows in South Africa, an internship offered through the company Emzingo, that pairs students with NGO’s, NPO’s and social enterprises, abroad. During their internship in South Africa, the students found that early childhood development facilities operated under impecunious conditions.
As a result, the students decided to create a Given Gain fundraising page and hike up Mount Kilimanjaro, to raise money to support renovations of the Boitshoko Daycare Centre— one of the longest-running early childhood development centers in the Munsieville township, outside of Johannesburg, South Africa.
The Daycare Boitshoko is run out of the Principal Maria Nthalla two-bedroom home. “Maria dedicates one room [entirely] to teaching the children in,” Mackinnon said. “About 30 children, ranging from a couple of months to six years old, crowd into that one small room.”
“Right now, there’s just a piece of sheet metal which serves as the roof,” he said.
“And, this causes the inside of the building to get incredibly hot during the summer and almost acts as a furnace, given the lack of insulation and air circulation.”
“Right outside the main room, the floors are uneven and there are bricks, garbage, and rubble all over the ground,” he described. Creating a difficult environment for the children to study in.
Mackinnon explained that many of ECD’s struggle to receive sufficient government funding. “Opening-up an ECD has become a new source of income for many people,” he said. “People begin by babysitting, and eventually more children join, and they form a new ECD.” However, as more ECDs pop-up in the township; the less funding there is for each ECD to operate. With unemployment high, parents often pay their fees late, making financing the day-to-day operations, an impossible task without government funding, said Mackinnon.
“We want to raise money to renovate the Boitshoko Day Care Centre, so that it can be eligible for government funding as an ECD.”
“With the funds, we raise we will be able to set a proper foundation, install doors, plaster the walls, and add a proper roof,” he added. The funds will also go towards building a kitchen specific to the ECD, which will open up the possibility to receive additional funding from the South African Health Department.
However, for the Daycare to receive funding as an Early childhood development facility, a few of the necessary requirements include: a storage room, an ECD specific kitchen, separate rooms for different age groups, as well as proper infrastructure proper foundation, insulated ceiling, plastered walls, said Mackinnon.
These renovations will enable the daycare to meet the government standards for ECDs; making it eligible to receive government funding, significantly helping the ECD to operate.
Prévost and Mackinnon hope that by renovating the Daycare center, they will be able to alleviate some of the financial burdens of the Daycare center, enabling them to focus on paying their staff minimum wage and purchasing school materials.
Despite the daycares crumbling structure, the children are still positive and full of gratitude, said Prévost.
“As soon as you walk into the daycare, the children get really excited,” Prévost described.
They all jump-up and put their thumbs to the air.” He explained that in South Africa a customary way to handshake or high-five is to do a thumb flick where you rub your thumb against someone else’s. “Which makes them really happy.”
Prévost says that the main lesson he has learned from the Boitshoko Day Care Centre is that you don’t need material items to be happy. “Although to an outsider, it might seem that the children are living in extreme poverty, it doesn’t take away from their happiness or positive energy,” said Prévost.
He explained that, by investing in the Early Childhood Development center, it will “ provide young children with the opportunity to succeed and establish a good foundation during their formative years.”
“Education is at the centre of empowering these communities and the next generation,” said Prévost.
According to a 2016 report, 78% of grade four learners in South Africa cannot read for meaning, compared to only 4% internationally (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study).
The two students have currently raised $2,700, of their $4,620 goal, which they hope to reach by August 4th.
The team will partner with Cross Connect Community Outreach that will hire contractors to make the renovations at Boitshoko Day Care Centre a reality.