Play Box for the Soul

Issue 2: Khanyisa Day Care, Graaff-Reinet



The gentle, pastel colours and creative patterns on the brick walls outside of Khanyisa Day Care are just a glimpse into what goes on inside. On the other side of the dusty car park and unnerving security gates, a completely different space reveals itself. There are children wearing fairy outfits and superhero costumes playing on the jungle gyms and climbing over colourful rubber tyres. In taking his superhero duties seriously, a miniature Captain America ‘fly-runs’ between classrooms ensuring law and order, and suspiciously watches visitors wandering too close to the fleet of small electric cars. The cars are donations from community organisations, and they neatly take their places in parking spots for children to drive themselves and their peers all over the centre in the likes of Audis, Lamborghinis, and Range Rovers.


The woman responsible for the well-being of the children at the centre is standing watching the children with an encouraging smile. Bukelwa is the principal of Khanyisa Day Care and has been working with the centre for over 22 years. The educational centre has been functioning since 1993 and accommodates over 120 children across 4 classrooms. Khanyisa Day Care was originally a mainstream educational centre but began accepting children with special educational requirements after recognising the lack of a place for children with intellectual and physical difficulties in Graaff-Reinet. Bukelwa and her staff have special training to accommodate learners with special educational requirements. The centre offers special programmes for learners and extends programmes to learners in high school. Bukelwa looks after about 20 learners with difficulties ranging from Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), which is especially common in Graaff-Reinet.


In her approach, Bukelwa follows an inclusive education system. She focuses on providing all her learners with a safe learning environment and a sense of belonging, regardless of their intellectual and physical abilities. A key component of the inclusive education system at Khanyisa Day Care is their infamous ‘Toy Library.’ The back of the day care boasts an impressive room brimming with educational toys and fantasy play costumes, all made possible with community funding and outside donations. The room is bright and playful, and all the toys are kept in sections on shelves according to developmental areas like fine motor skills, gross motor skills, and language development.


The LEGO® Play Box finds its place on one of the shelves in the Toy Library. Bukelwa underwent training from Care for Education in learning through play using Play Box as a tool about 2 years ago. She and her teachers skilfully use the Play Box for free play, but also to teach learners about colour and shape identification, counting, and life skills. The teachers all use a positive approach and allow plenty of opportunities for self-discovery. They encourage the children to learn and play together and seek to restore dignity to all their learners, especially those with special requirements.


The staff and teachers at Khanyisa Day Care are far more than just teachers. They are the cornerstones of community and youth development in Graaff-Reinet. Bukelwa manages the centre and raises funds, but also often finds herself playing the roles of mother, nurturer, and provider for the children. There were times when children came to Khanyisa Day Care without anything to eat, so Bukelwa frequently brought meals from home to provide for some of her learners. There are many issues with poverty, shortages, and theft in Graaff-Reinet, but the teachers at Khanyisa Day Care refuse to abandon hope. The teachers prove their love for their learners and often recommit themselves to the children by foregoing career opportunities in corporate professions and formal primary schools.


The children wave goodbye and confidently wiggle their hips to a catchy song, and the love, nurture, and support of all the staff and teachers at Khanyisa Day Care is unmistakable as they dance, laugh, and sing along with their learners.