After running a creche for more than 20 years in Joe Slovo, Lillian Dikana is looking forward to returning to her home town of Adelaide in the Eastern Cape for a peaceful rural retirement.
In September, Ms Dikana retired from Enozipho Educare and was given a farewell party by parents and the West Coast Women’s Parliament (WCWP), which has supported the creche over the years.
There were more celebrations on Saturday November 18, when the community, church members and Ms Dikana’s close friends gathered at the Assemblies of God Church in Joe Slovo to bid her farewell and also celebrate her birthday.
Since 1996, people have left their children in Ms Dikana’s capable hands, and she has become something of an institution in Joe Slovo.
The 75 year old looks far from ready for retirement with her short stocky figure and hearty laugh, but Ms Dikana says she’s ready to wind down.
“I am very tired. I need my time now,” she says, sitting in the container office of the Enozipho Educare, the creche she started single-handedly in 1996.
But before wiping sticky hands and teaching lullabies, Ms Dikana worked as a char in Milnerton. She had left her home town, Adelaide, in 1974 to look for work in Cape Town.
While staying with friends in Khayelitsha she travelled to Milnerton by taxi each day.
“I was arrested twice for not having a Cape Town pass document while I was working in Milnerton.”
Both times she lied about where she was going because the woman she worked for could also have gotten into trouble for employing her.
In 1991 she moved to Chuku Town. In 1994 she was involved in a taxi accident and injured her head and spent two weeks in Groote Schuur Hospital.
This did not stop her from voting in the country’s first democratic elections a few days later though.
After her accident, she decided to stop working as a char and soon after started babysitting children. In one month, six children grew to 32 and she could no longer accommodate everyone in her backyard.
“I enjoyed it so much. I loved the children and working with them.”
Eventually she moved into a shipping container at the Assemblies of God Church and she had four staff helping her as well as a gardener who planted vegetables.
Growing the veg was important, she said, because it put food on the table for the children who often came to creche hungry.
In 2000 Enozipho Educare moved to premises next door to the church.
Today her staff have doubled and she has complete faith in her successor, Melissa Makhenyane, to take care of business.
Ms Dikana is also a foster mother to two brothers after their mother died in 2001. The boys were only 5 and 10 when Ms Dikana took them in. The younger brother, Godfrey, was born visually impaired and a few years ago he had an eye operation that left him completely blind.
He, along with one of Ms Dikana’s great-grandchildren, will be moving to Adelaide with her.
“I feel good when I look back at what I’ve achieved. Enozipho means a gift from God and that’s what the children are.”