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Updated: Jul 28, 2021


The township is situated in the heart of Buffalo City Metro Municipality in the Eastern Cape and is the first and the biggest informal settlement out of 150 currently in the Metro, just a stone’s throw from the buzzing city centre of East London. The impoverished location today is home to more than 90 000 people who live under dire circumstances with little access to basic services and housing infrastructure. The area is dominated by informal structures which are compressed alongside each other on the city's town planning lines with little water and sanitation. The population density in the area has been reported to exceed 2 500 people per hectare in some areas with approximately 200 families utilising up to three communal toilets and taps placed in centralised areas among the informal homes. Thousands of these informal homes have also been erected on what once was known to be graveyards of the very first people to live here there at the time.

HISTORY - DUNCAN VILLAGE The first residents were migrant workers from rural areas, in particular, the former Transkeiwhile few came from surrounding East London. Very few regarded themselves as fully urbanised East Londoners with no ties to rural areas. The township was established in the early 1940s when the East London Municipality of the time saw a need to solve a housing problem in the East Bank. By 1944, 628 houses had been completed in the new township. Hygiene proved to be a problem in Duncan Village, largely because the government was struggling to maintain the streets and sanitation. The township was dealing with a serious case of tuberculosis in the 1940s. In 1949 every third child born in the area died of the disease. In a bid to address the issue of overcrowding and poor hygiene in the township and surrounding areas, the East London Municipality moved 80 000 people to Mdantsane between 1964 after housing and infrastructure were erected for the new development in 1962. DUNCAN VILLAGE TODAY Although plans have been put in place to develop Duncan Village, and housing developments have been established outside the township for its residents, the municipality is struggling to keep up with the mushrooming population caused by unemployment. The township is still faced with serious challenges with regards to housing, water and sanitation as well as hygiene. The recent roll out of the electrification of shacks by the municipality has however dignified and improved the living conditions since housing could not be received by every informal dwelling. The electrification was also seen as a solution to the illegal connections which constantly resulted to the death of people, mostly children in the area while the community continued to wait for housing spreads which have been promised to them for more than two decades. However the lack of employment has seen the system bypassed by many who still connect illegally.

LOCAL ECONOMY EDUCATION According to a report compiled by Statistics South Africa in 2011. The community mostly comprises of youth, 60% of whom are unemployed while more than 75% of the community lives on child support and pensioner grants from the departments of social development. Only a handful work in retail while others survive off piece jobs, spending their days on street corners waiting for a pick-up to get paid for a day’s work which can allow them to put food on the table for families. The location is also thriving with informal traders and service providers who have erected makeshift hair salons, restaurants, car washes and hawkers selling fruit and vegetables obtained from the nearby market. The township is surrounded by schools, primary and high schools, as well as mushrooming educational care centres but they are all battling against a very high crime rate as they frequently fall victims of burglaries and are continuously left under resourced. Crime and drugs, like many areas that are impoverished and overcrowded are a big problem in Duncan Village. Nearly two thirds of children under 6 years of age in SA live in the poorest 40% of households The 2011 Census counted 6.7 million children under 6 years while the community survey of 2016 done by stats sa estimated the number of children in SA to be over 7.1 million. Half of South Africa's youngest children live in just three provinces, KwaZulu Natal, Gauteng and the Eastern Cape. Young children are especially vulnerable to poor living conditions as they are still growing and have increased nutritional needs as well as a greater risk of infections. Adequate water infrastructure is important. HEALTH The large population has access to three health facilities which are close by, a clinic at the centre of the township and two others in surrounding areas. They are often under resourced with long ques and patients are seldom treated on the second or third day after registering at the clinics. According to research by the University of Cape Town Children's Institute 2019, despite the greatest improvement in water and sanitation being in the Eastern Cape between 2002 and 2015, children with poor sanitation reduced from 81% in 2002 to 17% in 2015. However, 60% of young children do not have access to adequate water, while 1.6 million children under the age of 6 still do not live in a household with a toilet or ventilated improved pit latrine on site where they live. This subjects them to appalling living conditions and poor health.

VOICES of LAUGH & LEARN In its 21st year now the early childhood development centre has cared for thousands of children over the years, producing professionals who have blossomed to be the best they can be despite where they come from because of the centre. Nosisa who is one of the first teachers at the creche recalls how Mama Connie Ngcaba, the founder, envisaged a conducive learning environment that caters to every need of a child. “There was no creche in Duncan Village and people had to travel far to take their children to school, meanwhile there were mothers who had to get to work in order for their children to eat and there was nobody to look after them,” said Nosisa. Nosisa said as much as the creche has evolved over the years, she has maintained the work ethos and principles Mama Ngcaba had for the school and continues to keep her vision alive by treating the children the way she knows she would. Abongile Williams,23, who is the youngest mother at the pre-school says she is excited about having her four year old son Ayabonga at the school. “Learn and Play is such a convenience because it provides transport. When those bus passes through the community it ignites such excitement among the children. The creche also serves children with meals which we can’t always provide at home. So it's comforting to know that at least they have had a solid meal a day. The structure along is beautiful and well kept, it's a well-equipped centre that stimulates children in a safe, comfortable environment.” “I'm unemployed and I'm not worried about the pressure of taking my child to town because I know my son gets everything he needs and more at Laugh and Learn,” she said. Williams said being born and raised in Duncan Village herself, she knew the hardships of the area, but the creche was a window of hope, giving their children a solid foundation by enabling them to quality education and their wholistic approach. Mother of three Cebisa Mgudlwa said all her children attended the creche. “Currently my last born Khanya is at the creche and both her siblings also attended creche here. I was holding thumbs that she gets in this year because I like the quality of children the teachers at the creche produce.” “I like the creche because of the way the children who attend creche here carry themselves compared to children at other creches in the township. They are more disciplined, neat and they are taught very well,” she said. Mgudlwa said it was common for children in the township to use vulgar language and misbehave because of what they are exposed to in the community, but children at laugh and learn are respectful and well behaved. Parents said there is a need for more facilities like this to cater for the many children of Duncan Village because in the township, everyplace is congested, flooded with burst sewage pipes and loud taverns with no conducive learning environment to stimulate the children. The creche currently caters for 54 children aged between three and six years of age.

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