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Early Childhood & Youth Development


To leverage our funding and convening power to unlock support for a sustainable ecosystem, driving awareness of the importance of early childhood development, attracting youth and building capacity, so that every child has access to quality early learning​

Why we chose to focus on early childhood development and

youth employment

The challenges in the ECD sector

Despite the importance of early childhood development (ECD) and the long-term impact it has on a child’s cognitive and learning abilities, South Africa is a long way from achieving universal access to quality ECD programmes.

Currently, only 3 in 10 South African children aged 0-5 have some form of exposure to early learning programmes. As a result, only 35% of children aged 4 and 5 are on track in terms of both growth and early learning.

Sadly 55% of children are unable to perform the tasks expected of them at this age.

Alongside low and unequal levels of access to ECD early learning programmes, the poor quality of ECD delivery and the fact that ECD is not a government priority, (given that only 2% of the education budget is allocated to ECD), further exacerbate the problem. The majority of South Africans are also unable to afford early learning programmes and many are unwilling to pay for them.

But one of the most significant challenges is the critical shortage of ECD practitioners. And many existing practitioners are underqualified and underpaid.

It is estimated that the ECD sector requires an additional 210 000 ECD practitioners and another 200 000 additional workers to ensure universal access.

The challenge of youth unemployment

South Africa faces one of the highest rates of youth unemployment in the world, with less than 5 in 10 youths (aged 15-34) finding employment​. Despite the desperate need for more skilled practitioners and support workers in ECD, opportunities for youth to participate in the sector are currently very limited.

Public employment programmes within the ECD sector hold promise but are not structured to provide clear career pathways for youth to enter and advance within and beyond ECD. Equally, youth are not equipped with the skills and capital to set up and sustain ECD early learning micro-enterprises and other businesses that could further support ECD.

These two significant challenges present a life-changing opportunity to not only ensure that we give our children the best start in life, but also employ youth in the care economy, particularly women.

The big opportunity

Help create sustainable employment and entrepreneurial opportunities that attract youth to careers in ECD

How we plan to influence broader change in ECD and youth development

Convene ECD stakeholders to promote learning and mobilise resources
We believe that by bringing together leaders in the sector, we can create more effective solutions and build momentum for change.

Empower youth to build and sustain new early learning programme businesses
Funding organisations that provide training and support to young entrepreneurs in the ECD sector, helping them to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to start and run successful early learning programme businesses.

Unlock public funding
Connecting and advocating for ECD implementation partners and accelerators that train youth to help them access government funding through collaborative programmes.

Support advocacy and awareness initiatives
Promoting the critical importance of ECD at all levels of society to further increase political will and fiscal allocations, while encouraging parents to contribute towards their children attending early learning programmes.

Support enabling sector reforms and initiatives
Ensuring ECD is a priority for government and that policy, planning and regulation reforms are fit for purpose to accommodate the growth needs of the sector and not hamper it.

The change we hope to see

The importance of ECD is recognised and valued across society
Leading to more children being enrolled in early learning programmes, increasing the number of children who are school ready.

An increase in funding is available to the sector
Increasing the number of skilled and/or qualified staff in ECD centres, and increasing the number of quality ECD centres and early learning programmes.

More youth are attracted to the ECD sector and ECD ecosystem
Reducing youth unemployment as running businesses in this sector becomes viable and sustainable.

There is a supportive regulatory environment in place
Ensuring that regulation is fit for purpose leading to the establishment of more ECD centres, as ECD becomes a viable business model.


Research Report

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