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.

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.

Where will the ECD be located?
The site which has been identified 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.