It was a day of singing and laughter, a day of small children with big eyes, a day to cut ribbons – and Open Sesame! On Wednesday 12 February, after 18 months in the making, two new classrooms, full of space and light were opened, turning the Siyabulela Early Learning Centre in Kleinmond into a full-scale pre-primary school with two Grade R classes.

Franca Tinner (Ambassador for the charity foundation, ‘For Smiling Children’), Alta van Wyk (Principal of Siyabulela) and Carl-Heinz Duisberg (Siyabulela’s patron) cut the ribbon at the opening of the two new Grade R classrooms.

The centre, which is run under the auspices of Kleinmond Child Welfare was launched in 2002 in two containers, with 35 children; now it accommodates 140 children from two-and-a-half to six years old in six classes. There are parallel groups for Afrikaans and isiXhosa-speaking children throughout, underlining the importance of mother tongue education at this early age.

The principal is Alta van Wyk, a self-confessed perfectionist and a ball of energy, whose passion and commitment to high-quality Early Childhood Development (ECD) drives the school. The firm foundation the children receive at Siyabulela is endorsed by the two local primary schools, where they perform at above-average levels.

Everyone who was anyone attended the opening of the two new classrooms, which have been specially designed and decorated with furniture in vibrant colours and posters on the walls for the 60 Grade R learners who have already taken excited occupation.

Guests of honour were Franca Tinner, the Ambassador for Grand Resort Bad Ragaz in Switzerland’s charity foundation, ‘For Smiling Children’, which sponsored the building of the classrooms, and Dr Carl-Heinz Duisberg, the school’s patron from Somerset West, who facilitated the relationship between the resort and the school. Another special guest was ‘Tannie Corrie’, a senior Kleinmond resident who has been the school’s mainstay of support from the very beginning. “When I know there is some special need at the school, I pray for it and it comes.”

Each of them was presented with a beautiful ceramic bowl jointly created by well-known local potter Corinne de Haas and some of the children. Not only were the individually designed pieces made by hand but they featured the handprints of the children. (The Village NEWS 28.08.2019). Siyabulela means thank you and this was their way of saying it. As Corinne wrote in her message to the donors: “I trust that the clay play we had will be remembered, and that you as supporter of the youth of Kleinmond, will keep this bowl of little hands as a reminder of the importance of the small things that shape our humanness.”

However, as everyone agreed, the highlight of the day was undoubtedly the children’s participation. For the younger ones to be confronted with this onslaught of strangers was enough to bring on a serious case of stage fright and dry up all the words of their carefully-learnt rhymes and songs, but when the proceedings closed with the singing of Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika, they raised the rafters. As Nelson Mandela put it: “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.”

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