My best moment was when I went back to school again doing my level four. Education is the key to each and every locked door; whatever you do, you can’t do without education. God has plans for everything; I’m going to further my studies and I’m going to push those who are still young to do whatever it takes to be in school.

Jamma’s story as told to Starting Chance

My name is Nomojamma, but we always shortened it to Jamma, which was my father’s name. I grew up in the Eastern Cape, Transkei, and we were six in our family. I’m the third one. I did my primary school and secondary school education in the Transkei, passed my grade 12, and then I moved from there to Cape Town in 1988. I moved back the same year that my father passed away – I was doing Matric at that time, and I was hoping that he was going to further my studies, but unfortunately he passed away, so I had to struggle and look for work because there was no one who could put food on the table for my siblings and my mom. I started working in a restaurant and stayed there for a few years.

Then I also met a young handsome man. Ooh very handsome! This young man was charming. He said he didn’t want to mess with me and wanted me to be his wife. I said let us date. So we dated for a year, and got married. Then quickly I got pregnant and I had my firstborn in 1989, and my second one in 1991.  I opened a spaza shop and was running it from 1991 to 1994.

Then we moved from Khayelitsha to Mfuleni in 2003. I could see that there are so many people who were not working and they always come to my spaza shop and ask if I can give them some credit. I must loan them some food because their children didn’t have anything to eat. Other times as I’m running the spaza shop people ask me ‘Jamma please can you just put an eye to my child because I’m going to look for some work.’ And I’d find out that they didn’t even leave those children with anything – no bread, nothing. I have to take from my spaza the bread and some cool drinks and give these to the children. And I thought, why can’t I just look after these children, because now I’m taking my husband’s money and always ending up without any profit.  I decided to close the shop and open a crèche.

I told the parents I’m closing the shop and I’m going to open up a crèche. They were so glad.They started bringing their children. I started with twenty, then the numbers grew. My husband was so supportive. I was running it at my house, and I was staying at a shack at that time, so I used my sitting room and accommodated them there.

My cousin was staying next door, and he said, ‘You’re doing a great job, and I’m moving to Johannesburg, so you can keep my site.’  It meant I could have enough space for the children because their numbers were growing.  By that time I had 30 children, I thought I have to register now. I involved myself with the forum then the forum advised me.The health inspector visited me and said you need this and this, so I put everything in place. Then they come and register my site. I was registered for 30 children and I said, “Oh wow, thank you Lord.”Then I had to apply for funding. I was just using my husband’s money because there was nothing.

Often the parents as usual don’t have money to pay for their children but I don’t have the power to say no don’t bring your child. It was special when I got some subsidy from social service because I could manage to buy some food. I also had to pay the teachers and I had to have a salary, because my husband needed me to earn something. So at least things were better now and I attended level 4 in 2007, and level 5 in 2008. Unfortunately, when I was attending my level 5, my husband got a brain tumour.

It was so painful at that time. But it made me strong, because he always said, ‘You know I’m 100% supportive of whatever you are doing, so you have to be strong.’ At that time he was lying there in the hospital bed, and he said to me, ‘Be strong, be strong.  Go to school. Do whatever it takes to be where you want to be.’ I said OK. I didn’t understand that he was going to die and leave me at that time. After some time, the doctors told me that they had done everything they could do so I had to accept that. After he passed away I have to be strong now because he was always there for me, always supported me, so I have to be strong. I went to the forums, got some information, attended more workshops and I said I know that to take out this pain I have to involve myself with a group of people.

I see my centre is growing so fast, I almost reached 120 kids, I said now I have to look for the open space. I pack up my kids and look for the open space. We found some space by a fence and we played there, but after some time I decided I have to build so I put a wooden house there for the children. But unfortunately, the law enforcement wouldn’t let me. I applied for the space in 2007 from Kuils River, but they say we have to wait because there is no guarantee that we can have it.

My dreams and my wishes are to see my centre moving from where I’m staying to that site which is 7726. Luckily, at the end of last year, they opened the file for me at Kuils River and said OK I must come and pay for the opening of the file for that site. So I’ve got hopes that at the end of this year, I will have that space; I will have a suitable classroom for those kids.

My advice is to love yourself first then show love to others, because there are those who are really in need of love. And I was lucky because my parents loved me a lot. I like sharing. I like to listen. I like to feel happy all the time. Whatever I have I share with others.

My best moment was when I went back to school again doing my level four. Because starting something, you need to grow up and have the foundation. As I was growing up I thought I was going to be a social worker, but unfortunately I couldn’t further my studies. We were doing the theory, then Starting Chance came with the practical work and they helped our teachers. This makes us feel like we can do this; we can do more for these children and I feel great, I feel overwhelmed, and I know they are doing their best for us. I’m doing my diploma at False Bay College now; I started in April last year. I’m doing it in ECD.

Education in South Africa is challenging because even now when I was looking at the number of children who need to be enrolled in school and high schools, there are big numbers and not enough classes. There are many children who pass grade 12 and they are doing nothing. For example, now at my ECD centre I have two volunteers who passed grade 12 and I feel for those children, they say they have nothing to do, and so they asked me to allow them to volunteer so I could sign for them to do level 4.

Our homes are in the Eastern Cape are left with nobody. Young children are rushing to come here to Cape Town because they want to live with their mothers here and don’t want to live with their grandmothers so the schools there (in the Eastern Cape) are empty. The children say there are not enough resources in our rural area – there are no libraries there, no computers. If they can really improve the Eastern Cape then maybe numbers of people can go back home and then there’ll be a space here for children to get the right resources, the right education.