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GROW ECD Accelerator: empowering ECD centre owners to run sustainable preschools

By Grow ECD

Maria Dithlakanyane established her Day Care Centre to provide a safe space for children

and create jobs in her community. Her Happy Hours school is well situated, close to a

primary and secondary school making it easy for parents to drop off their kids. However, she

was battling to organise a proper daily programme for the school and she had no learning

resources. “Our teachers were struggling to implement the themes and keep children busy

with educational activities,” says Dithlakanyane. “I was not happy. I wanted to provide a

quality education for the children.”

Seeing a Facebook ad for the Grow ECD Accelerator programme, Dithlakanyane decided to

apply. “I saw many centre owners saying how much Grow had helped their centres, so I said

let me try,” she says. “At the programme, I learnt about leadership, about how to manage

money, how to budget and how to save. I also learnt how to register my school to get a

government grant.

“I was learning so much I signed up for Grow’s Small Business Programme,” says

Dithlakanyane. This programme includes a play-based and NCF-aligned curriculum; a

classroom kit of educational equipment; online, interactive teachers’ guides; business and

education mentoring and in-person training.”

Grow ECD also offers ECD owners a low-cost financing option. Dithlakanyane says, “In the

Accelerator training they explained about their curriculum and classroom kit. At my

centre, I didn't have resources and didn't have enough money to buy what I needed.

So, I applied for a low-cost loan from Grow. I had gotten quotes for loans before and those were much more expensive than what they had been offering. And it does work. They don't just give you a loan, they look at your income and expenses and help you to reach the amount that you can afford to pay so that you are safe and not putting your business at risk,” explains Maria.

Tracy Chambers, CEO of Grow ECD, says. “ECD Centres are not treated as small

businesses, even though they are the backbone of preschool education in South Africa.

Owners, mainly women, struggle to get loans to improve the quality of the education they

offer and, ultimately, make more money for themselves and their, (predominantly women)

staff teachers.

“We are in partnership with a financial institution which is helping these women invest in their

businesses. We assess each centre’s business and determine what they are able to afford so that the loan improves their business so that it does not become an unmanageable financial burden.

We offer a holistic solution rather than just a loan, with comprehensive business mentorship and break-even analysis as part of the loan review process. To date, we have lent over R2,5 million, an average loan of R22 000, to 104 preschools with a remarkable 0% default rate,” she says.

It is not just about providing loans; it's about empowering women, transforming education, and ensuring that ECD centres are recognised as essential small businesses contributing to the community's well-being,” says Chambers.

Dithlakanyane says, “I am so proud of my centre now. The classroom is organised, the

introduction and implementation of themes are easy, and the children enjoy playing the

different educational activities with the teachers. My teachers all know exactly what they

must do, and I save time by not having to monitor them constantly,” she says. “More

customers are asking about my school than ever before. It is a great feeling.”

Should you be interested and want to find out more about the programmes offered, find the links below:


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