Issue 1: Tinkerbell
Meet Natasha. Natasha is the owner and principal of Tinkerbell, a small educational daycare centre in Graaff-Reinet. Tinkerbell nestles itself on a quiet street corner against magnificent, meandering mountains characteristic of the Eastern Cape. Natasha waits at the gates of the centre which is, in essence, a comfortable house made into a home for children in their early years of development.
The centre is humble, and in the front garden, there is little more than a wooden jungle gym and some blue and yellow tyres. The children are away on holiday, but one can easily imagine their excitement and playfulness as they weave their way between the play area. A single step into the house introduces the first room, which functions as a classroom. There are colourful plastic chairs resting on top of tables perfectly fitting for preschool children. A few staff members are sitting on tiny chairs planning and preparing for the return of the children the following term. On the left of the first classroom, smaller rooms stretch down the passage and function as more classrooms. The kitchen is at the centre of the home and bears a few cupboards and a small stove. Three large steel pots line the kitchen wall to help bring nourishment to over sixty small tummies during the day. The kitchen wall adorns certificates and educational posters, and toys decorate every corner of every room.
In her collection of educational toys, Natasha points out her LEGO® Play Box. Natasha underwent training from Care for Education just before the start of COVID-19 and recognises the value of learning through play using the Play Box. Natasha uses her Play Box to develop skills like colour identification, cognitive thinking, language, and storytelling in her learners. With the help of Early Inspiration, a training company from Gqeberha specialising in the development of young children, Tinkerbell follows a comprehensive, constructive curriculum. Natasha encourages her teachers to integrate original, playful activities into their lesson plans to help develop her learners holistically.
In developing learners holistically, Natasha often instils a sense of community and human values in her learners. Sometimes, children arrive at the daycare centre without anything to eat, so Natasha encourages her learners to share. She depends heavily on community funding as she keeps her monthly fees low for parents, and both Natasha and her staff have been struggling without a salary for the last few months. There are many challenges pervading Graaff-Reinet, including persistent poverty and water shortages. Theft and vandalism are rife, and the fruits and vegetables grown for local community projects are often stolen.
The issues in the community are despairing, but Natasha and other community members meet their difficulties with perseverance, resilience, and vigour. Their love for children and their work drives their efforts, and they support one another by way of learning groups, where they discuss difficulties and share ideas, knowledge, and resources. Natasha recently lost her spouse and now struggles to support her own children. She was given the opportunity to work as a teacher at a local primary school but chose to remain at Tinkerbell for the sake of her learners. She not only looks after the physical well-being of her learners but nurtures them emotionally and provides them with learning opportunities to function as compassionate, contributing members of their communities and society.
Natasha is tireless in her attempts to improve the lives of children at her daycare centre. She uses the LEGO® Play Box to provide her learners with joy. The Play Box offers children in struggling communities the opportunity to play with LEGO® DUPLO for the first time and experience excitement as they learn about themselves and the communities surrounding them.