The association “Friends of Thandolwethu” was formed as a vehicle to support a dream: assist members of the local community in setting up and running the Thandolwethu Early Childhood Development Centre in Samora Machel township, on the outskirts of Cape Town.

Our goal is to raise funds to support training of the staff, build the centre, ensure quality educational activities, promote and disseminate innovative educational practices inspired by the Reggio Emilia pedagogic approach.

Nokubonga Sbosh Mepeni

Sbosh was born in Lady Frere, Eastern Cape. After completing her studies, she collaborated with STATS SA and the IEC. Currently, she is employed by JL Zwane Training & Development Centre in Gugulethu. Sbosh is one of the founders of Ubuntubethu NPO, as well as the Movement for Change and Social Justice. She is active in the community as the Deputy Chairperson of the Samora Machel Youth Development Forum and as a volunteer in schools and organisations, with a focus on children and youth. In 2017 she visited Italy and was introduced to various social enterprises and associations, including the Loris Malaguzzi Centre in Reggio Emilia. She returned to South Africa with the dream of creating a Reggio Emilia inspired Early Childhood Development Centre for the children of her community.

Nicolus Mzikayise Ndzuzo

Mzi is one of the funders as well as the Chairperson of Ubuntubethu, a non-profit organization focusing on the youth of Samora Machel township.
Experienced in drama and music, he is also one of the founders and directors of community radio station Iqhayiya FM as well as the presenter of Masithethe Talk Show.

He truly believes in the power of relationships and perseverance. He loves helping others and has been volunteering for his community since 1999. In 2017 he visited Italy where he was introduced to the Reggio Emilia pedagogic approach, and he returned to South Africa determined to apply this approach in an Early Childhood Education Centre in the community where he lives.

Wendy Norrie Konco

Wendy grew up in the Eastern Cape, then moved to Cape Town where she continued her studies. She holds a National Diploma in Human Resources Management and has been a dedicated volunteer and facilitator for Ubuntubethu NPO since 2013.
Wendy currently co-ordinates the volunteers for this very active non-profit organisation based in Samora Machel.
She supported and followed step by step Mzi and Sbosh’s trip to Italy, and shares their enthusiasm for a Reggio Emilia inspired Centre in the area where she lives, so she decided to be part of it. Like the other two community leaders, Wendy is planning to study further and obtain the relevant qualification that will allow her to be part of the management team of the Early Childhood Education Centre.


The birth of this project
In August 2017, Mzi and Sbosh, two young community leaders from the Samora Machel township, on the outskirts of Cape Town, spent a month in Italy as part of the ICLE (International Cultural Leadership Exchange) project.

During this period, they visited various organisations, such as social cooperatives, associations and cultural centres, and were particularly fascinated by the Loris Malaguzzi International Center of Reggio Emilia, which focuses on the promotion of innovative educational practices.

Enthusiastic about this experience, Mzi and Sbosh flew back to South Africa with a new dream: to open an Early Childhood Development Centre inspired by the pedagogical approach that has long since been tested in the schools of Reggio Emilia. Wendy, another resident of Samora Machel, was soon involved in this project as well. Samora Machel is, in fact, the community in which they live; they intend to offer the service to the people living in their neighbourhood, providing an ECD of high quality, which could also have a positive impact on other institutions existing in the area.

Samora Machel, which was a sparsely inhabited area until the 1970s, has seen its population (mostly isiXhosa) grow exponentially due to increased urbanization and town planning policies of apartheid. From the residential point of view, brick buildings co-exist next to informal structures built with sheet metal or other makeshift materials. Here, access to sanitation, water and electricity is difficult and childcare centers are insufficient to cover the demand for this service.

Mzi is willing to give his own land for this purpose.
The site which has been chosen for the centre is located near the train station, which most people from Samora Machel use to commute to the city centre. Once operational, the Early Childhood Development Centre will be located in a strategic position and will be accessible to residents from various areas of Samora Machel.

The Early Childhood Development Centre as a social enterprise
The idea of an Early Childhood Development Centre is also an idea of social enterprise, a company that, starting from needs identified in the community, offers and exchanges services of social utility and at the same time offers opportunities for qualified work to the members of that same community.
It is therefore an economically sustainable idea, for which initial capital is needed but which, once started, will be able to sustain itself autonomously.

The birth of the Friends of Thandolwethu Association and its goal
In September 2018 the South African non-profit association Friends of Thandolwethu was formed. The purpose of this organisation is the support to the birth of Thandolwethu Early Childhood Education Center, which is the school that Mzi, Sbosh and Wendy really wish to see.

The association intends to work to ensure that this structure is operational starting from 2021, and it is currently moving on five main fronts: 

  • supporting the project leaders in obtaining a qualification that allows them to manage an ECD;
  • supporting their participation in specific training events focused on the Reggio Emilia approach;
  • assisting the project leaders in the definition and development of a business plan and in establishing the entity that will materially manage the ECD;
  • mobilising resources and collaborating on the definition of the architectural project for the building that will house the ECD;
  • raising funds to make the whole project possible.