Veronica Sickle started 3 Bears Educare for 10 children in her Portland home in 1997. Today, she has 250 pupils spread over three buildings, including a training academy for the community to teach the unemployed about early childhood development (ECD), to empower parents and a space for her educare centres to host events.
The smaller children, aged from 18 months to two and a half, are at the educare’s original building in Silversands Avenue. The two to five year olds are at the centre on the corner of Washington Way and Hazeldene Avenue.
And on Friday October 14, they officially opened 3 Bears Education and Training Academy, across the road. It has three classrooms linked by sliding doors, a hall, toilets and administration office.
The three classrooms can accommodate more than 90 pupils and is being used by the educare across the road.
The building is registered as an ECD site and is to be used by the community.
Ms Sickle bought the plot from the City of Cape Town.
Colleen Isaacs, Ms Sickle’s daughter and the principal at the school for the two to five year olds, said the new building had taken five months to build and was a dream come true for her mother, who is known as Teacher Sickle in the community.
She said the community could use the centre for events, workshops and Teacher Sickle’s free weekly teacher training classes would move from Silversands Avenue to the new premises.
“Over the years, we have had to hire halls, cart children and props and work within other people’s time frame in preparation for concerts. Now we just cross the road to practise in our hall, and our graduation ceremonies can be held here,” she said.
They also plan to run parenting workshops to help parents find ways to occupy their children during weekends and prepare them for school.
Teacher Sickle is passionate about empowering people and running free workshops. She said that as far back as 1992 she realised from her ECD training and discussions with colleagues that crechés were not glorified babysitters.
“We took a stance to provide a quality service and excellent nurturing to raise children with strong values,” she said.
Speaking at the academy’s opening, Suzette Little, the City of Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for social development and early childhood development, said she felt “privileged to be in the presence of excellence”.
Educares taught values that would stay with children for the rest of their lives, she said.
“Crime and drugs are not the problem. They are the symptom of the problem, which is broken families,” she said.
Ms Little said educare and community centres countered the abuse and violence many children experienced daily. “I pray that the Lord makes your days long so the children can benefit,” she said.
Ward 81 councillor Danny Christians said the educare had “taken a child by the hand and a nation by the soul”.