Short description

True North helps struggling Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres to become well-managed entities that provide quality education.


ECD is the process whereby young children, from birth to six years, develop the social, cognitive, physical, emotional and life skills that set the foundation for their life-long learning. Since 2001, Government has made significant efforts to expand services for five year-olds in the reception year of formal schooling – and before this. In 2005, the Social Sector Cluster of government produced the National Integrated Plan for ECD as its commitment to addressing the needs of children under five with a particular focus on poor and vulnerable children.

Nearly half a million children under the age of five live in the Western Cape, of which only 20% attend a registered ECD centre. Within the confines of Vrygrond/Overcome Heights, near Lavender Hill in Cape Town, only 5% receive education in registered facilities, 25% in home-based unregistered facilities and 70% receive no pre-school education at all.


True North is a registered Non Profit Company (NPC), founded in 2007, whose mandate is “to bring meaningful change to vulnerable and underprivileged communities in the Western Cape through education, research and the sharing of technology.”

True North conducted evaluations in the Vrygrond/Overcome Heights community and during the process of data gathering, community interviews and the creation of the Community Explorer Map, the desperate need for early childhood development in the area became apparent.

The organisation provides teacher training, educational resources, structural improvement to current buildings and facilities, construction of new crèches, business training to principals, as well as ongoing support and monitoring to ECD centres.

True North aims to provide ECD services to all children in Vrygrond and Overcome in the next six years. The True North ECD model has been designed with scalability in mind, and combines the following:

  • The in-centre strategy (IC): Focused on developing a new generation of school-ready children by supporting ECD centres within disadvantaged communities, transforming them into well-managed, registered facilities which provide a high standard of education, nutritious meals and other essential basic needs.
  • The out-of-centre strategy (OOC): Due to the critical shortage of land and other resources that affect most vulnerable communities, True North is pioneering an out-of-centre (OOC) strategy that equips parents to create a home school environment for up to six children. The programme aims to inspire parents and caregivers to support children in becoming school-ready.

Their method includes the following seven strategic principles:

  1. Research: desk study and review of available information, interviews and visits with members of the community, surveys, fieldwork and the analysis of other baseline data.
  2. Trust: establishing trust within a community.
  3. Mapping: using data to create intelligent maps that depict trends and patterns that would go unnoticed otherwise.
  4. Partnerships: with other NPCs and local government departments/agencies which are crucial to ensuring that efforts are not duplicated.
  5. Needs Assessment: establishing a realistic strategy that balances in-center and out-of-centre requirements.
  6. Implementation: based on six focus areas including premises and equipment, health and safety, ECD management and leadership, active learning, parent and community engagement.
  7. Entrustment/Exit: community members are identified and equipped to eventually assume custodianship of the project.

What we like about this organisation

  • True North has a holistic approach; they provide practical training to the principals and teachers. The organisation also provides assistance to ECD centres and helps them with registration with the Department of Education.  The organisation is based within the community where they work and therefore can have a more hands-on approach to addressing the specific issues of this community.
  • The organisation is led by the co-founder and is assisted by a qualified and dedicated team; it is not reliant on one person for leadership and direction.

What difference can your money make?

  • R10 000 will provide educational equipment and other resources to ECD centre principals and teachers to supplement the training received by True North.
  • R250 000 will provide a daily nutritious meal for one year to each of the 1350 young children in the centres True North supports in Vrygrond.
  • R750 000 will fund a purpose-built ECD centre that caters for 60 children under five.

Volunteering opportunities

  • The following professional skills are needed: pediatricians, doctors, psychologists, occupational therapists, social workers and nurses
  • Support for principals: financial and human resources skills
  • Qualified pre-school teachers
  • Leadership experts
  • Help with Information Technology