Community meets to halt Morningstar crèche closure

Up to 30 people, which included residents and concerned parents and some staff, attended a community meeting concerning the financial issues plaguing the Jack & Jill Morningstar crèche last Thursday evening. Picture: Keanan Harmse.

The fate of the Jack & Jill Morningstar crèche hangs in the balance after it was reported during a community meeting that the crèche faces an eviction notice after ignoring unpaid municipal bills.

The various issues plaguing the crèche were brought to light during a community meeting which was held at the crèche, last Thursday evening October 5 at 6pm.

Concerned resident Elaine November told Northern News she decided to arrange the meeting because she heard that the crèche was served with an eviction letter due to unpaid municipal bills.

She could not state when she heard the crèche was served with the eviction letter nor did the Foundation for Community Work (FCW) confirm the date when Northern News enquired this week.

“FCW told me that they’ve instructed a lawyer to serve the crèche with an eviction letter and that they’re waiting for the case to be added to the court roll then the crèche will be closed.

“My concern was what’s going to happen to the children as the parents unfortunately need to work. I wanted to stop the closure and FWC promised me that if I can arrange a community meeting and help appoint a new committee who were willing work with FCW, then they would attend the meeting,“ she said.

The meeting was attended by residents, parents and overseen by a panel of members representing the FCW, which included Shamsunisa Dalwai and director, Dr Riedewehaan Allie.

FCW currently own the title deed to the crèche. FCW is a development and resource ECD organisation that promotes the holistic development of children within the context of their families and communities, according to their website.

“On the agenda we’ll discuss the finances, the current committee and the proposal of asking the community to help form an interdict committee that will work with FCW. This new committee, will then work directly with FCW to ‘re-register’ the crèche. Currently the crèche’s status is that it is not registered,” said retired advocate and chairperson of the meeting, Charles McDonald.

At the meeting, Ms November, unpacked some of the financial woes crippling the crèche.

“The current chairperson of the crèche, Justine Snell, informed me that the crèche has no bank account, which was a great concern for us. I’ve asked the committee to bring with them tonight financial statements but I have yet to receive anything. So I’d like to ask the current chairperson tonight, if she’s here, why there’s no bank account?

“Last week Ms Snell told us that the former management told her that she should’nt use their bank account anymore. We haven’t yet spoken to the former management,“ Ms November said.

One resident who introduced herself as Nobi Williams, explained how the crèche operated when she was the treasurer last year.

“I was on the committee previously as the treasurer last year. If I start at the beginning, when I was working at the crèche, for a long time our parents always paid their school fees directly in the account FCW sent us at the time.

“After some time of this, we started arguing as a committee that since we felt that FCW doesn’t plough back enough investment for our children but they receive the money. We then decided that we would no longer pay the money in the FCW account and that the fees, would go towards the personnel who formally worked here at that time. And so it went on for some time,“ Ms Williams explained.

Mr McDonald then replied: “So you received cash in an account or kept it physically at the crèche?”

Ms Williams retorted with: “Our parents gave the money to the personnel that worked here, they kept the cash and they worked with it, not us, or the committee. And so we carried on with the fees being paid in cash at the crèche.”

She also confirmed that the crèche had no record of bookkeeping when Mr McDonald enquired.

At the meeting, Dr Allie stated that crèche’s debt that they owe the city currently stands at R235 000.

The crèche caters for 27 children, according to Ms November.

Dr Allie gave FCW’s stance on the matter saying: “I think for the past two years we’ve been trying to find a working agreement and relationship with the staff. But a succession of incidents such as staff changes, staff walking out, clearing the furniture, taking the belongings of the crèche, has really created an environment that has made us decide to have a much firmer handle on these situations.”

According to Ms November, the crèche’s current committee is: Saartjie Mentjies, Justine Snell, Derik Mentjies and Byron Esau. She also confirmed that only Ms Snell and Mr Mentjies were present at the meeting.

Ms Snell informed Northern News that they as a committee will work together with FCW to solve this crisis but she declined to comment on the municipal bills, the crèche’s bank account issues as well as its registration status.

It was announced at the meeting that one of the new committee members elected is Chrissie Jordaan, who previously taught at the crèche for 45 years, according to Ms November.

Mr Mcdonald said the purpose of the meeting was to ask the community to brainstorm solutions regarding the debt, the crèche’s registration as an Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centre and to formulate a proposal that will help solve the crèche’s problems.

During the meeting, Northern News asked the FCW panel if there was a deadline for the outstanding debt the crèche owes, to which they declined to comment.

When Northern News asked the City of Cape Town to confirm the amount of the municipal bill that the crèche owes, they said: “The City cannot comment on any specifics relating to the customer’s account, given the POPIA privacy requirements.”