i would love to take this opportunity to give you a brief introduction to Zaan Cilliers and the Pikkewyntjies Pre-Primary school located in Mooi Uitsig, Betty’s Bay.
Last week i had the privilege of driving the most beautiful route from Cape Town to Betty’s Bay for the purpose of meeting up with Zaan and taking a look around the school. My sister Sue who lives in Austen, Texas in the States was introduced to the school on her most recent visit here. She went on a trip to the school with my parentals and got to meet Zaan and the children. She was super impressed with the setup and encouraged me to have a visit.
i received such a warm and friendly welcome from Zaan Cilliers and immediately felt at home in the school. She spent a generous deal of her valuable time sharing some of their story and showing me around…
One of the things that stood out the most from my trip was when Zaan told me she does a 90-minute pick-up and drop-off drive with a busful of children at the start and end of each day, adding 3 hours to her work day. That, and when Zaan said to me that a private school could offer her three times what she is being paid at Pikkewyntjies and she would not take it. There is definitely a deep love for the space and the children and seems somewhat more of a passion project than a job. Let Zaan tell you a little more in her own words:
Pikkewyntjies is a Pre-Primary which involves learning goals that help our young children understand and appreciate diverse cultures and communities which make up our wonderful rainbow nation.
For 12 years I have been running this little Pre-Primary and not one day I did not enjoy working with these little children. Our children are so innocent, unspoiled and happy. They love to play with all kinds of imaginary things, are grateful for everything we give them and wants to come to school. Although we are a small little school in the rural area of Betty’s Bay our standards are very high. Our kids progress so well when they enter Primary and Secondary school. Some of our kids were given a full scholarship by Curo Hermanus because of their achievements.
The best part of being a staff member at our school is all the love you can give and also get back from our little children. They just want hugs, attention and somebody that can listen to them when they wanted to tell you something. Being depressed here is not an option, these little ones keep you occupied the whole day and before you know the day has passed without you thinking of all your troubles. They have carried me through a very difficult time since 2017 and I am so grateful towards them. I love them and for them I am their mother, father, teacher and Ouma. I always tell them that they are MY children and I will protect them as far as I can and they love it.
The Little School That Could
Pikkewyntjies Pre-Primary School is really a school with heart and Zaan Cilliers and the rest of the staff there just exude it. But it is not a school without challenges. Part of sharing the story is the hope that someone [or someones] might get inspired to visit and start supporting it.
Here are some of the stories about this school’s day to day journey, some garnered from my visit and chatting to Zaan, and others from the newsletter she sent me:
One thing she mentioned is that the school only closes during the whole year for three weeks in December. Because of the needs of the children [with food being one of those – meals are provided to the children at school every day as many of them come from struggling families] stopping for holidays doesn’t feel like an option during the year and so they are Go! Go! Go! all the way through until December.
One thing Zaan wants to put into place is an after school program. This will of course take more resources, with food and petrol for the bus being the other two big expenses that the school could really use help with.
Zaan told me that the ex students bring their report cards to her every term so that she can keep track on how they are doing. They each get a little [or not-so-little when it’s end of year] reward for doing so. This is really phenomenal in a space where there is so much need to focus on what is happening in this moment. Yet Zaan Cilliers has a bigger picture focus in mind.
Pikkewyntjies Pre Primary was founded in September 2007 and is an independent community-based school that serves the impoverished communities of Rooi Els, Pringle Bay as well as Betty’s Bay.
Pikkewyntjies is a Non-Profit organisation, a project of Child Welfare South Africa under the auspices of their Kleinmond Office. Although CWSA:Kleinmond is our mother body, we do not receive any financial support from them. Pikkewyntjies Pre Primary has their own Management Committee and Bank account and there for are solely responsible for their accounts and funding.
The inspiration behind the founding of the school was to create a safe environment for the children of the communities and to teach them Early Childhood Development skills.
Pikkewyntjies have an active committee consisting out of parents and members of the community. The committee is doing constant fundraising to ensure that the parents can pay the minimum school fees.
Our teachers noticed that our children concentration span was deteriorating due to malnutrition. We implemented a food scheme for all our children and provide them with two nutritious meals per day. We have also started a vegetable garden in August 2014 so that we can provide fresh vegetables daily to the children and teach them to be self-sustainable.
Regular parent meetings are also held every 6 weeks. All parents are involved in the decisions that is made for the school and their children.
We also involve the parents and adults of the communities by hosting training sessions for them. The themes of this session ranged from parenting skills to preparing nutritional meals.
When i visited the school they were about to start rehearsing for their end of year concert. This is a big event for them every year. They have a really amazing outdoor and playground space and a stunning view to look at while they play. The staff i got to briefly meet all seemed caring and engaged and it really does feel like a valuable space of learning.
A chance to get involved
i went to visit Zaan Cilliers and the Pikkewyntjies Pre-Primary School to give them a small gift of creating a space to share a little of their story. But i left with a box filled with amazing school-baked cheese scones! And a warm heart from having witnessed a space where children are being well cared for and educated in more than just academics. As is often the case, those who seem to have the least, tend to give far more generously than they receive.
But here is a chance for you to maybe get involved. The school survives largely on the fund-raising and donations it receives. If you are a person or family who could spare a small or large amount every month then every little bit counts. Together we can encourage Zaan and the staff and children and help to shift a familiar narrative in our country. If you’re in the area, i would definitely encourage you to connect with Zaan Cilliers and see if a visit is possible so that you can see this all first hand [i can’t guarantee you scones though, that might only be for cool people with green hair!]
There really are so many good causes around the country [and the world] to support. This call is more to those of you who may not have yet found the one or two you would like to connect with and give to. One less coffee/take-away/luxury item a month or even holiday a year could go a long way to transform a number of these young lives… and if you have a MySchool card you canchoose Pikkewyntjies as one of your intended beneficiaries…
BANKING DETAILS: FIRST NATIONAL BANK, CHEQUE ACC, BRANCH: 200412, ACCOUNT NO.: 62147034988, SWIFT CODE: FIRNZAJJ
So that is just a glimpse into the life and work of Zaan Cilliers and the staff at Pikkewyntjies and i hope you might be inspired to get involved in some small or big way. The final words go to Zaan and her team:
We are trying to create a new generation of children that is responsible, dream for a better future, and perhaps we and our children will also benefit from it. We teach them values, manners, the difference between right and wrong and to start dreaming big for themselves. These children are so beautiful and bright eyed every day. They are unspoiled and appreciate every little thing they receive. Everything we teach them is a “WOW” factor and they REALLY want to learn!
For more of the story, check out their website over here.