Afrika Tikkun centres a safe haven for kids

By Gabi Khumalo

It’s the last week before the schools re-open following a three-week holiday. Like other days, the Afrika Tikkun Wings of Life Centre in Diepsloot is abuzz with children taking part in various activities.

The centre has not only created a safe haven for local children where they study and play but also keeps these children away from the streets. The area is known for its high crime rate.

Established more than 20 years ago, Afrika Tikkun addresses the issues of children’s education and psycho social health.

Its model is the holistic development of children, which entails programmes aimed at providing education, health and social services to children, youth and their families, through centres of excellence in South African townships.

Afrika Tikkun has five centres located in Cape Town and Gauteng, with each centre housing close to 500 children.

At the time that South Africans observe Nelson Mandela Month, SAnews recently visited one of the centres in Diepsloot, north of Johannesburg.

This particular centre provides social services for children aged between two and 22 years old. The majority come from underprivileged and impoverished backgrounds. Mandela himself cared deeply about children and at some point during his presidency instructed that a portion of his salary be paid to various charities caring for children.

In his address at the launch of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund on 08 May 1995 Mandela declared: “As we set about building a new South Africa, one of our highest priorities must be our children. The vision of a new society that guides us should already be manifest in the steps we take to address the wrong done to our youth and to prepare for their future. Our actions and policies, and the institutions we create, should be eloquent with care, respect and love.”

Afrika Tikkun Diepsloot centre was established more than 10 years ago and runs programmes including, amongst others, early childhood development, child and youth development as well as sexual violence in schools in South Africa.

The ECD Programme, which targets children aged between 2 to 6 years, provides numeracy, literacy, life skills and age appropriate developmental services through a structured curriculum, play and creative activities.

After school, the children come to the centre, where they do their homework with assistance from various institutions like the American School in Fourways.

The institutions also run afternoon classes for young children in lower grades as well as Grade 12 learners.

“The classes start from 2.30pm and the hours spent depend on their ages. The little ones’ classes start at 2.30pm until 4pm, while the older ones leave the centre around 6pm because they come in late from school,” says Project Coordinator at the centre, Chris Maseko.

Since the majority of learners have limited or no space at home to study, before their exams, the centre provides space for Grade 12 learners, where they stay over until they finish writing the exams.

In addition, the centre organises extra help from other school teachers to come and prepare the learners for the exams.

Child and Youth Development

The child and youth development programme provides empowerment, innovation, and care in the form of health and fitness, as well as inspires learning programmes tailored for the specific age cohort of seven to 18 years.

Through the programme, children are equipped with skills to enable them to access knowledge and learn through experiential education in libraries, computer labs, sports, drama and other structured recreational programmes.

The centre also runs boot camps during June school holidays where children participate in workshops and educational activities.

To respond to the high number of sexual violence cases reported in Diepsloot, the centre runs SeVISSA Programme, which targets schools and the community with awareness campaigns, peer sexuality and life skills education.

The SeVISSA Programme started in 2014 and is funded by the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund (NMCF). It is implemented in four provinces including Gauteng, Limpopo, Western Cape and Eastern Cape through coalitions.

The Afrika Tikkun in Diepsloot has launched the programme in three local schools, where children are equipped with skills so that they can go back to their own schools and communities to address issues of sexual violence.

Moreover, children are being trained to be advocates so that they can learn more with regards to advocacy, mobilising and planning projects in their communities and within schools.

Learners taught about sexual violence

Maseko explains that with SeVISSA, children work closely with Life Orientation (LO) teachers, where they are able to identify learners who need support with regards to sexual violence and sexual violence cases.

“They also identify programmes that can be run by the schools, and talking with LO teachers, they are able to have programmes that can capacitate and sensitize learners in schools when it comes to issues of sexual violence,” Maseko says.

In identifying the most needed and effective programmes responding to the community’s needs, Maseko says the centre does business studies, research, consult with the School Governing Bodies, including schools and communities to find out what are the challenges in the area.

“We also look at the cases highlighted by the media and link them to our advocacy.”

In the programme, the centre works in coalition with other organisations including amongst others, Child Line and People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA).

Apart from the coalition, they also work with other stakeholders like Men as Partners, Department of Social Development and Police because “some of the cases can’t be handled by us or child line, so we refer them to our partners.”

Maseko thanked the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund for its funding, noting that the programme has changed children’s lives in Diepsloot.

“I’m humbled by the programme and the funding. It has changed a lot of children’s lives. We go back to the schools and interact with teachers to find out how effective is our programme, and the feedback we get from the schools and parents is very positive,” says Maseko.

For Maseko, the programme serves the purpose and does what it was established to do. She acknowledges that they are not yet there but surely they will get there, working with the communities, to build a safer place for kids. – SAnews.gov.za