Warrior women stops at nothing to create safe haven for Ravensmead children 

Ravensmead Educare Centre faces – and overcomes – near impossible challenges.

Sarah Strauss, principal of Ravensmead Educare Centre (part of the GROW Educare Centres network), has overcome near-impossible challenges to create safe Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centre in Ravensmead where children from disadvantaged homes can receive nutritional meals and quality schooling.

She has achieved so much and hopes Capetonians can help her get her school fully compliant with government requirements.

Preschool principle takes on dilapidated old community building to start preschool  

After teaching in the Middle East for seven years, Sarah returned to home with the dream of opening an ECD Centre in her community of Ravensmead, near Parow. She started a creche in her home at first. “Eventually I took the opportunity to take over an abandoned ECD building in the community and turn it into a safe ECD Centre,” says Sarah. “The building had no water and no electricity. It was a dump site, and it was unsafe. The situation was very challenging. I had to find money to remove the rubbish, paint the building, repair the doors and windows and fix the plumbing,” she says.

Thanks to the previous principal not paying the bills, the building had a municipal debt of over R500 000, which Sarah has had to take on. This means no water and no electricity services will be supplied until she can pay it off. Incredibly, after only three years, she has covered most of the debt and has only R86 000 left to pay.

“I have managed to get two JoJo tanks and a generator for the school to supply the water and electricity that we need,” she says. “We painted the school and repaired all the doors and windows, even the roof. I built a wall around the school. We have a veggie garden where we harvest our daily food, thanks to generous support from The Sprightly Seed and sponsors such as MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet. The environment is safer now, and our centre is compliant. We have six qualified teachers and six assistant teachers. We have taken on eight severely disabled, special-need children with different challenges, including language barriers,” she says.

Left: One corner of Ravensmead Educare Centre – this large community building was previously left unattended but thanks to the diligence and perseverance of Principal Sarah, progress is being made.

Preschool receives community support

“I worked hard to get the community to put their trust in us. And to get their support. This community faces a lot of problems socially and emotionally with substance abuse and many jobless people. Gangsters are an issue. My ECD Centre is a safe haven for children where they can get a nutritional meal and good schooling. I did a lot of fieldwork to convince the people that our creche is the best, and now parents flock to send their children to us.”

Sarah’s ECD Centre is part of the GROW Early Learning programme, an NGO established to improve the Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centres in under-privileged areas. GROW provides educational, financial and nutritional training to GROW schools, as well as lesson plans, classroom education equipment, administration tools and learning equipment, and monitors schools’ outcomes. Thanks to the partnership the quality of education in Sarah’s classrooms is constantly improving.

Support Ravensmead Educare

Tracey Chamber, CEO of GROW, says “Sarah is quite incredible. She took over a gang-infested community building that had been severely mismanaged and has turned it into a place of safety and learning for children from her community. She has restored the building to its former glory and has established a thriving food garden. She takes in children who have drug-addicted parents and has several children with severe disabilities. She does this because she is determined that every child deserves a good start in life and that means quality early learning,” she says.

“Although this warrior woman has come so far, she does need help to get her school fully compliant so that she can register her centre and receive essential government subsidies. She has a list of financial and other items she desperately needs. It would be wonderful if a company or individual could help her. She has achieved so much, and we want to see her succeed,” says Chambers.

Sarah says, “With all the problems we have overcome and those we still face, it has been great to see how proud our parents and community are of the growth of Ravensmead ECD Centre. The whole community has committed themselves to take ownership and to safeguard our centre,” she says. 

Help Sarah get her school registered to receive essential government subsidies. Sarah’s wish list is:

  1. R86 000 to pay off her final municipal debt so that she can have running water, electricity and can register her ECD Centre
  2. A Fridge to keep food fresh
  3. Two televisions for rainy days and for music and play activities
  4. Mattresses for nap time
  5. Chairs & tables
  6. Solar panels
  7. A outside playpark/jungle gym