Quality Education for all: GROW assists ECDs in under-resourced areas 

GROW Educare Centres works with Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centres in low-income and developing communities across the country.

Tracey Chambers, CEO of GROW Educare Centres, says, “Our ultimate goal is to make sure that every South African, no matter where they live, has access to good pre-school education, which research shows impacts kids for their entire lives. GROW uses a five-step programme to help preschools provide quality early education while also helping the ECDs become sustainable small businesses. Every ECD can journey through the five steps at their own pace.”  

Step One is free and any ECD in South Africa can apply. On Step One ECDs receive the ECD management app, which provides administration and compliance tools, business development resources and data-free online training.

Step Two, the Quality Education Programme, is where principals begin investing in their own ECD Centres. With Step Two, principals receive a full curriculum, all the educational resources (toys and equipment) they need to teach the lessons as well as practical teacher training and business mentorship. Everything a school needs to provide kids with a good education along with the financial know-how to ensure their business is successful.

A dream to open an ECD centre for father-less children

Happy Valley Day Care in Strandfontein progressed to Step Two’s Quality Education Programme seven months ago. Lionel Braaf had a dream to open an ECD centre for father-less children and kids with absent fathers. Four years later his wife Chantal also quit her managerial job to join the centre. They have 45 learners, three classes with four teachers.

Chantal says, “Step Two is such a worthwhile investment. I’m not being boastful, but if you had seen our ECD before and you see it now: it is wow!”

“It’s important to invest in your centre and in a curriculum, good equipment and teacher training because you are investing in the children and in your business. It’s R35 000 and that sounds like too much but GROW checks your finances to see if you can afford it. They help you find a micro-loan (done through a registered financial service provider) and you pay it off. For me, it’s R1200 per month for three years and that’s not bad. For that, I get all the lessons, I get all the equipment we need, all the training we need and an app that helps me run the business properly, it is very good value for money. If GROW sees that you can’t afford it, they give you guidance on how to run your business better and you can apply again.”

A proper curriculum changes everything

Chantel says, “Before we started with GROW, things were so stressful. The curriculum was a big issue. We didn’t have a proper curriculum. I had to come up with lessons, google pictures and tell the teachers what they should do, it was all up to me. We had no educational equipment because it’s very expensive. As an ECD we have no access to finance to try to improve our business.”

“Now the atmosphere at our ECD is quite relaxed because we all know what we’re doing and what we’re going to do tomorrow and we have all the equipment we need. It is amazing,” she says.

Chantal has been spreading the word about GROW and the benefits of moving to Step Two. “I showed the other ECD owners the Term 1 book, it gives you every day’s work per 15 minutes. So you know exactly what to do. They loved it,” she says.

All the resources we need to run a quality early learning programme

The kids are seeing the difference, we have the resources they can play with to learn. I showed parents how the kids are learning through play now and they are so excited. The feedback is very good. People are hearing about our school by word of mouth, so we won’t be afraid to put up fees for next year.

Using the App, my paperwork is at a minimum, because I fill in everything on the app. I know exactly where my money is going to now, what I paid and what I did not pay. The App makes things so simple. I can stand at shopping mall, and check on the App if I need this, and immediately add it as an expense. 

My husband’s dream is to get a bigger premises or to open another centre. Mine is just to have the kids perform well. I am very proud of our school now,” says Chantal.