From an easy-to-use app to lesson plans, learner assessment tools and now also pioneering affordable micro-loans: GROW Educare Centres aims to lift the standard of preschool education and management in South Africa.
A holistic solution for early learning
Running a successful preschool or early childhood development (ECD) centre requires a combination of education and business skills. It is a complex small business that offers a crucial service to the community. Owners have to comply with formal requirements (including health and safety standards, labour laws, financial management and reporting) as well as ensuring that the learners in their care are developmentally on track. That is why GROW Educare Centres (GROW) focuses on supporting preschools holistically.
All creches can benefit from the free ECD management app
Their free mobile app quite literally puts the running of any early learning centre in its owner’s hands. This is only one of the solutions provided by GROW to these micro-business owners.
One such business owner is Nteseleng Hlahatsi from Atlehang Preschool in Boksburg, who says the app helps
her and her teachers be more in control: “We had very little resources to support our day-to-day activities. Now with the GROW curriculum and learning materials available on the app, our teachers are more confident in what they are doing, and our learners are having so much fun discovering and learning. The app has also helped me to keep track of all my school’s admin. I like mostly the online training, the online books and the attendance register,” says Nteseleng.
A sense of their own agency is what GROW seeks to inspire in women running early childhood development centres. “An ECD owner is not just a mother who looks after the children in her community. She is a social entrepreneur that provides an incredibly valuable service that will have a far-reaching impact on future generations and its leaders,” says GROW CEO, Tracey Chambers. Early learning is the foundation phase of education and the most crucial building block for future academic and lifelong success.
“She is in charge of her preschool, and we believe she needs helpful tools, resources and support at her fingertips to focus on the business of education – rather than getting stuck in time-consuming admin. Through the app we, together with our partners, can provide her with exactly what she needs to make her school among the first 5-star early learning centres* in her community,” adds Tracey.
The App for ECD owners, is in fact one of three as there are separate Apps for teachers and parents, respectively. Any ECD owner in South Africa can sign up for free access to the app, which will, thanks to a shared value partnership with Old Mutual, see it being developed further and rolled out to every corner of South Africa.
More ECD resources: online curriculum, training, partnerships and micro-loans
GROW recently partnered with the LEGO Foundation to transform the GROW curriculum into an online multimedia format. “Our curriculum offers 40 weeks of play-based activities and themes for every day of the school year for 2-5-year-olds. Now we are making this daily programme available online in a new multimedia format to show teachers how it works, rather than tell them”. The online curriculum features videos, photos, voice notes, songs and extension ideas to help teachers prepare for every week.
GROW also supports teachers in their continuous professional development by offering data-free online teacher training available on the app.
“We’d like to invite other organisations offering support in the ECD sector to join us by using the app to deploy their services. Let’s work together so that ECD owners gain access to the best resources out there,” explains Tracey.
In addition to much-needed resources, GROW, in partnership with Spoon Money, makes affordable microloans available to ECD owners. “Only 26% of preschoolers are beneficiaries of government subsidiaries. We have secured impact capital, which is available to qualifying schools. The initial investment per school is R35 000.”
Since the launch of the app a year ago, 1 400 ECD Centres have registered to use it. GROW also aims to deploy R17.5million in finance to 500 ECD Centres (registered and using the app). This translates to at least 15 000 learners benefitting from this initiative in the next 12 months.