In 1998 Jurie and I were considering what we should do as far as schooling for Zoë and Rebecca was concerned. Although they were having great fun growing up in the bush I was concerned lest they were not socializing enough with children of their own age. The staff children were usually only at the lodges during school holidays and sometimes over weekends.

As things so often had a way of falling into place in our lives, we were to meet Doris Marimane, an unemployed pre-school teacher from Utah village. Doris wanted to start a pre-school locally; she saw a need for one as well as needing employment for herself. More and more mothers were working, leaving their young children in the care of grandmothers or aunts.
We were very interested as this was exactly what we needed for Zoë at the time, and Rebecca at a later stage. Doris showed us the ruin of an unused building that would be perfect for the children’s needs. The chances of getting a government subsidy to start the school were slim, as pre-schooling was not considered to be essential formal education, so we were left to raise funds for opening the school. We set about drawing up a budget and a list of requirements for the fifty children we expected to enroll. We employed some builders to renovate the building and replaced the broken windows and missing doors. By the start of 1999 with bright coloured tables and chairs, posters on the walls, crayons, paint and paper, Nwa Tumberi Crèche - named after the chief’s mother - was opened. It did not take long for the word to spread and the next thing we knew was that there were over a hundred children arriving daily, not only from Utah, but from other villages further afield.
School fees were set at thirty rand per month, which at the time was the equivalent of about three dollars. Jurie, Doris and myself believed we should charge some sort of fee in order to assert the value on this additional type of schooling. One should remember here that many of the children’s parents had hardly ever attended school at all and could see no benefit from such schooling other than keeping the children occupied for the morning. We later learned that the fees were way beyond most parents and so dropped them to ten rand per month. Apart from receiving a foundation for his or her subsequent education, each child also had two nutritious meals per day. Breakfast was brown bread with peanut butter, a piece of fruit and a cup of sweet tea. Lunch was usually mielie meal pap (stiff porridge) and a sauce of beans, tomato, onion and cabbage. Once a week, chicken replaced the beans. The school fees hardly covered monthly expenses, let alone salaries for the teachers, but we had no problem subsidizing the school as it was a much needed worthy cause.
Doris was assisted by her daughter Thoko and a friend, Wonder. The food preparation and cleaning of the grounds was undertaken by volunteer parents, sometimes in lieu of school fees. Young Zoë would happily go off to school every day, with nanny Joyce helping the teachers where possible. The school routines and discipline trained her social skills well and, although she was the only white child attending, she was fluent in Tsonga and managed to fit in well. The following year Rebecca also enrolled at Nwa Tumberi Crèche. It was also wonderful in helping our family to become properly integrated into a wider community. Previously ‘our community’ consisted of the lodges’ activities and the staff involved with them. Now, although with many of the same people, we furthered our common interests, as our own and our children’s futures became inter woven into a wider community.
It was not long before word started spreading about Djuma’s involvement with the pre-school in the village. Landowners to the north of us on Buffelshoek, as well as non-commercial lodges near Djuma, wanted to know how they could contribute towards local community development. Naturally we were always looking for ways of supplementing the monthly costs of running the school, and we gladly accepted all contributions. In the course of time one of our neighbours on Buffelshoek, Sidney Frankel, developed a great plan to take care of longer-term goals. He suggested starting up the Buffelshoek Trust and being very well connected in the business world, called on his friends and business associates to make large cash contributions towards the trust. This would enable larger projects to get off the ground, and together with wise investment, could grow the fund and sustain community projects well into the future. Of course, Sidney’s friendship with Nelson Mandela would also help towards the fundraising effort. But more of that later…