There’s a striking quote by famous author Jess Lair that reads: “Children aren’t things to be moulded, but people to be unfolded.”
A brief visit to the Waterford Estate crèche – where a handful of children go every day to learn a new song or rhyme, to listen to a story, and to socialise with friends – is all that’s required to remind you of Lair’s words. Those first lessons really do set the stage for a lifetime of learning.
The Waterford Crèche was established in November 2016, after the school on one of the neighbouring farms had to close down unexpectedly. Alternative arrangements had to be made fairly quickly, and the Waterford team set out to find a site on the farm that would be close to the farm workers’ homes, yet spacious enough to offer the kids enough room to play. A basic shed with a kitchenette and toilet was erected and, over the course of 14 months, equipment was added to make the crèche as comfortable as possible.
The facilities are simple, but the kids who attend the school have everything they need: from a safe place to clamber around under magnificent oak trees, to boxes full of books and toys, and a cool space in which to take a nap after being cleaned and fed. Significantly, the crèche’s children have the privilege of being cared for and educated by members of their own close-knit community, in a setting that can only be described as idyllic.
The crèche is a way of supporting the members of the Waterford family who live on the farm, explains Waterford viticulturist David van Schalkwyk, who played a prominent role in setting up the facilities. “The school makes it possible for the families to earn a dual income,” he says. “Having the kids so close to home also makes it easy for parents to drop them off and pick them up after work, and even check in on them during the day.”
After the initial rush to set up the facilities, finding two teachers to take care of the children was, fortunately, fairly easy. Aisha Daniels, who grew up on the farm, was doing an Educare training course at the time and Sannie Blaauw, whose husband Richard works on the farm, was keen to earn an income while caring for her grandchild. For both Aisha and Sannie, it made sense to look after their little ones while taking some of the other farm children under their wing.
Seven children between the ages of five months and four years are currently in Aisha and Sannie’s care. Chanté and Enjay, the crèche’s two four-year-olds, are confident, inquisitive pre-schoolers. Both can write their names, count to 20, recite a string of rhymes, and navigate their way through the jungle gym with ease. There’s no doubt that, when they transition to Grade R next year, they’ll settle in well.
Chanté’s mom, Clarina Pietersen, is full of praise for the school. “I really like the fact that Chanté’s teachers have started teaching her how to write and count, and we always have a giggle when Chanté comes home with a cute new song or rhyme.”
For Waterford Estate’s owners, setting up the crèche for the farm workers’ children was a simple decision. The Waterford brand is built around people, and the owners take great care in ensuring their employees’ long-term success and prosperity. Making sure that the children who grow up on the estate have a strong educational foundation was a natural extension of this philosophy.