There are currently one million South African children aged 3-5 years who do not have access to early learning programmes, which help create a happy, well-adjusted child ready for primary school. Via the Hollard Foundation Trust’s Kago ya Bana programme, SmartStart is a model for empowering entrepreneurs to address this problem by way of a social franchise to ensure that access to high quality early stimulation becomes a reality.
We believe there is a better way to prepare young children for a lifetime of learning.
The first six years of a child’s life are so important and their exposure to early childhood development (ECD) programmes sets the tone for a lifetime of learning: preparing them for school, enhancing their classroom performance and, overall, increasing their chances of success in life.
As ECD becomes recognised globally as a ‘powerful equaliser’, interest in promoting ECD, particularly for children from disadvantaged population groups, has grown in South Africa. SmartStart focuses on learning through play and opportunities for interactive storytelling.
The role of the home is key in providing ongoing stimulation that encourages and supports learning throughout a child’s life. This however, is a challenge in the poorest of households where resources, services and education are limited. SmartStart provides parents with the know-how and skills to continue stimulation at home.
We’re excited to be involved in SmartStart, South Africa’s own ECD social (non-commercial) franchise, which was launched in 2015 and works with partners, like us, private funders, community development organisations and government to roll-out quality early learning programmes across the country.
Social franchising is being used all over the world as a game-changing strategy to bring essential services to poor communities at scale.
By using a social franchise model, SmartStart aims to bring essential early learning services into communities and reach one million 3-4-year-old children through playgroups, day mothers and ECD centres in a standardised way.
With 5.9 million children ages 0-4 living in South Africa in 2015 and majority of which living in poverty, the task is immense. It is estimated that in the poorest households, only 20% of young children attend an ECD centre.
SmartStart’s works with community members who have a passion for working with children and an interest in running their own micro-enterprises. They are well equipped with an in-depth five-day StartUp training, ongoing observation and mentorship sessions, peer-to-peer support groups and content support to enable them to facilitate early learning.
Another key element to SmartStart’s sustainability and success is its ability to ignite parents’ interest in their childrens’ early education. To encourage parents and help them understand the importance of the home in providing ongoing stimulations, SmartStart runs monthly parent sessions which educates them on storytelling and learning through play.
SmartStart is currently in year two of its ‘start-up’ phase, which involves developing and refining training methods and materials, building a network of practitioners and developing a trusted brand.
As early as 2018, SmartStart’s goal is to reach 60 000 children a year. This number will continue to grow to SmartStart’s ultimate goal of reaching one million children a year by 2025.
SmartStart is a great example of what can be done, with the right smarts…and the right heart.