ECD owner out to end stereotypes
Cape Town - Like Eddie Murphy and Jeff Garlin, who play the roles of Charlie Hinton and Phil Ryerson in Daddy Day Care, Patrick Marais was eager to try something new in what is deemed a female-dominated industry.
Marais is the owner of I am Educare Centre in Eerste River. The Early Childhood Development (ECD) centre which opened its doors last month accommodates children between 18 months and six years.
Marais has a total of 20 children split into two classes. He employs two teachers, one assistant and someone who makes breakfast and lunch for the children. The father of two also has transport for parents who are interested and will run an after-care programme once schools open.
Marais said he opened up an ECD centre because of the high unemployment and crime rate in his community.
“The idea was very welcomed by the community, but some other principals saw me as a failure even before I could open my doors.
“I want to get rid of the stereotyping and stigma of ‘coloured people are lazy and only good for gangsterism and making fatherless babies’. In 2014, I worked full-time at a church and did missionary work in the Eastern Cape and in Tshwane.
“This was where I got the opportunity to work with broken youth involved in gangsterism, drugs and prostitution. Thereafter, my love for working with youth and children took flame and burned like a field fire. The decision was made long before the pandemic started, it was all part of my five-year plan and a pandemic was not going to stand in the way of my vision,” he said.
Some of the daily routines at the ECD centre consists of the following: screening and sanitising on arrival, singing their welcoming song, breakfast, regular toilet breaks, sanitising and hand-washing, lesson time, outdoor activities, lunch and nap time.
“For a child to go to an ECD centre is very important. This is where they discover their character and personality. It is where the foundation is laid for the rest of their life. This is where role models are made. I have a WhatsApp group to communicate with parents and I share pictures and videos of the activities their children are doing,” he said.
Regarding Covid-19 protocols, Marais said staff and children are screened on arrival, their hands are sanitised throughout the day and they practice social distancing.
“Teachers and children either wear masks or face shields and sanitise every hour. We also sanitise toys and materials used by children before and after each use. Children are seated two at the table which are 1.5 metres apart. Should a teacher or child show any symptoms of Covid-19, they are requested to stay at home and isolate for 10 days. We have also reduced the number of children that we can accommodate to lower the potential spread,” he said.
Before opening up the ECD centre, Marais was a youth care worker at Teen Challenge South Africa, a Christian organisation which provides support to the poor, marginalised women and youth, and at Girls & Boys Town.
“It was the best experience ever. The way God used me to influence these young people and their households and the impact they had on my life, it was truly phenomenal. What I learnt was humility and patience,” he said.
Marais plans to open a chess club in the area in the near future.
“There is a lack of good role models and influential fathers in our communities, and I believe that’s the reason for the youth’s bad decision-making and judgement. Chess will help and improve their decision making and stimulates the brain better than the poisonous music they listen to and whatever they are smoking these days. The chess club will keep them off the street, less children killed by a lost bullet or drunk driver,” he said.
His wife, Terri Leigh, described him as spontaneous, humble, loving and a good leader, and above all, a God-fearing man.
“He's a man for the community, people’s person and does everything with a passion. I never doubted him for a second, even though I knew it was a risk he was taking to go into a women’s world of dominance,” she said.
A teacher at the ECD centre, Edwina Dooling, said Marais is a caring and friendly person.
“He is ambitious and also believes that children have the right to a good education. He has a passion for children and loves them like his own.”