“We must be united. Where there is unity there is love. Where there is love, there is understanding of each other. And when you are united nobody can split you. If we act, we act together.I always say to my children, I am your role model, leave this world having lived well. The world will treat you better if you treat the world better.”

Princess’s story as told to Starting Chance

I’m Princess from the Eastern Cape. I grew up there, I was doing my high school there. Here in Cape Town I was doing Level 4 at North Link in Parow, and Level Five and now I’m busy with my diploma. I enjoyed school, although I was a very sweet girl. I was not talkative, I was shy. Then I married in 82. Eric and I met when I was 14, in school. We were staying in the same area. We were in a relationship for seven years, then we married, then in 83 or 84, we had our first born, a son, Raymond. In 89, another son, Elvis. 91, another son, Christian; 94 another son, Eugene; 96 a daughter; 2004, a son again.

I am evidence of the cross. I say that because in 1989, after I gave birth to the second child Elvis, my husband left me, and had a friendship with another girlfriend and he married her. Before he married her, I became a born again. I came to the church and the pastor asked me why I was crying. I’d tried everything to bring my husband back. OK, I said to Jesus I accept you. I worshipped for five years. At the end of five years my husband came back. That’s why I said I’m the evidence of the cross. Then for five years, my two children they were on drugs, they were bergies, they slept outside pubs. They stole other people’s stuff. They were beaten by the community. Sometimes men with guns would come looking for them. But now they are saved. Now, the one is doing first year and the other one is working with his own house. So I am the evidence of the cross. It was not an easy journey.

In 2007, I met my son’s friend (the 94 one). My son always said ‘mama can I bring him breakfast, can I bring him supper?’ But I wanted to know what was going on with this child, why he was always hungry, so I asked him his story, and he said he was neglected by his mother. His mother was nowhere to be found. So I went to the social workers and told them the story. So they decided to give him to me to foster. So that is where I started to be a foster mother. Before I took him in he was on the streets. Now I have five foster children. One is in high school doing grade 8, the other boy is doing grade 6, the other girl is doing grade 4, and two are doing grade one, so I’m a foster mother. That is my story.

I still look after two of my own children as well. So there are seven children at home. I’ve got a heart for children. It was 2012. Where I was staying there were a lot of children walking around during the school day and when I asked their parents why they don’t send them to school they said no they don’t have money, they don’t even have money to buy shoes. So I decided to open up the ECD to look after the children, even if they don’t pay school fees. Some of the children don’t have lunch… breakfast… I decided to cook breakfast for them out of my spare pocket. Even if the child doesn’t have school fees he or she must come. That’s me. I can’t turn a child away. If a mother keeps the child at home, I’ll go and knock and ask her why she keeps the child, why she doesn’t bring her to school. I ask her to bring the child to school.

It’s been hard. It was out of my husband’s pocket. He was retrenched in 2011; was not working from 2012 to 2013, then he started to drive children from their homes to school. It was our living. Sometimes, I was supposed to pay the teachers out of his pocket. I’d go to him and cry and say what must I do, I must pay them because I don’t like the story at the end of the month when you have to tell the teachers I don’t have money. The parents don’t have money. Some of the children pay school fees, but only 30 to 43, out of 79 children.

It was hard until Starting Chance came, and my renovations started. Now I can start the process of registration, because of them. In the church I’m the pastor’s wife. It’s not an easy job. It’s not an easy journey. To look after the people is not easy, but we do it because of the grace of God. The journey is not easy.

I think as a person, you must understand each other. Be friendly, calm, waiting also for the disappointments, because every journey has the disappointments.  You must be calm. Calm, sweetie, calm. I’ve got this belief nobody’s perfect, but everybody wants to be perfect. If I’m not perfect, you can be not perfect also. So the best way is to be calm.

I talk to myself and say I’m proud of me. To raise a child even if you don’t have a blood relationship with that child. And what I like the most – my children have also adopted this style. The older ones are working. During Christmas I don’t have to worry because they buy clothes for my other children. My children don’t suffer because they have got brothers.

Food has been so tough. There are times when there is no money. And you see if my school children don’t have something to eat, I become sick, very sick. And paying teachers. Sometimes parents don’t have money but I can’t turn children away. And also, I can’t say to the teachers stay at home because I have no money, because some of them are breadwinners.

Three years ago my husband’s business was not really going well. The car was not in a good condition. We were doing a lot of repairs so it was a lot of money. But from last year it is better.

In 2015 I was thinking of closing the school because of the difficulties, because there was no money, but my daughter  she said to me ‘Mama, but if you close the school because of difficulties, what about these people who are helping here, who have the hope of getting bread at the end of the day?’ Then I changed my mind.

I think the ECD must be serious. We mustn’t rob children. We must give them good education, good quality. We mustn’t just look after the children and give them food; we must teach the children and give them a good education.

Education is very important because the woman is the heart. It’s where the vein pumps the blood. The woman is a manager. If women can be educated and take their education seriously then this world can be changed.  As I said, women mustn’t sit and relax. You know, I was born in 1956, I’m 50 in June, but I’m still at school. I’m doing my diploma now and that’s what they must do. They must stand up and do something.  Seek for information. The information is important. There’s a lot of information, but people don’t take notice of it.

My happy place is the way I treat my teachers. I treat them very well. I’ve got mistakes, they’ve got mistakes, so what I like is if I have something I don’t like I speak to them, and if they’ve got something they don’t like they speak to me. So there’s respect. I like the way they teach my children. They are sacrificing a lot. Sometimes I say to my husband, I wish I had a lot of money to pay these ladies. They sacrifice a lot. They also love children.