In his State of the Nation Address, President Cyril Ramaphosa emphasised the necessity of educating children to break the cycle of poverty.

In line with this, and as education is the cornerstone of the advancement of communities, ITB Plastics, a subsidiary of Novus Holdings’ packaging division, has invested almost 12 years into the rural community of Isithebe in the Ilembe District Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal with new premises for its creche, the Isithebe Day Care Centre.

While the creche has been operational since 2007, due to the lack of suitable pre-schools in the area, ITB Plastics saw the necessity to expand its day care facility, which not only offers a stimulating learning environment, but also a safe space to play for children, from the age of two right through to Grade R.

“It is a well-known sentiment that the first thousand days in a child’s life hold the key to unlocking his/ her life-long potential,” says Michelene Locke, head of marketing and sales at ITB Plastics. “Coming from a teaching background myself, I know the importance and need for early childhood development and the impactful role that the right schooling environment can have on a child’s life.”

In 2006 discussions with employees revealed that there was a need for foundation phase education within the community, which led to the birth of the Isithebe Day Care Centre. What started with seven children in one training classroom turned into three prefabricated classrooms for over 70 kids.

“We decided that the spare training room on our premises would be used as a day care facility for the children of ITB’s employees, in hopes of providing a safe space them to learn in. We soon admitted children from non-employees who lived in the community, as the creche provides a launching pad for these children. Children leave us and arrive in Grade 1 more confident, and with confidence comes the thirst for knowledge,” says Locke.

Today the new crèche, which has moved to the new Red Street location, can fully house 75 learners and is open to the children of ITB staff members as well as kids from the surrounding factories and areas. It provides two meals and two snacks per day to ensure all children are well nourished. It also provides jobs to local teachers and teacher assistants. Four people are currently employed by the creche and the Grade Rs follow an official Grade R syllabus.

Locke says that the impact of the creche is vast and can be felt throughout the community. The local primary phase schools welcome the children from the creche given that children who are enrolled at these schools from Isithebe Day Care Centre have a solid foundation, which includes having grasped concepts such as colours, shapes and basic counting, before moving onto Grade 1.

The school fees charged by the creche are below the average for the area. The children are offered quality education in a caring environment.

ITB subsidises a lot of the expenses, however assistance from industry and the public is still required.  The creche is currently without any playground equipment for the children.  Toys and books suitable for two to six-year olds are also in demand.

“Our dream is to one day have some of our Isithebe Day Care Centre learners become valuable employees at ITB. Then we will know that this was a job well done,” concludes Locke.

For anyone wishing to make contributions to the Isithebe Day Care Centre, contact Felicity Deane on 032 459 2590. Businesses who make donations to the Centre will be able to claim points for contributions towards socio-economic development (SED), as per the current Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) scorecard.