According to Dithlakanyane, she was battling to organise the school with a proper daily programme and she had no learning resources.

"Our teachers were struggling to implement the themes and keep children busy with educational activities," says Dithlakanyane. "I was not happy. I wanted to provide a quality education for the children."

Seeing a Facebook ad for the Grow ECD Accelerator Programme, Dithlakanyane decided to apply, says Grow ECD. 

"I saw many centre owners saying how much Grow had helped their centres, so I said, 'Let me try," says Dithlakanyane. "At the programme, I learned about leadership, how to manage money, how to budget and how to save. I also learnt how to register my school to get a government grant."

"I was learning so much I signed up for Grow's Small Business Programme, Dithlakanyane adds. "This programme includes a play-based and NCF-aligned curriculum, a classroom kit of educational equipment, online, interactive teachers' guides, business and education mentoring and in-person training."

According to Grow ECD, it also offers ECD owners a low-cost financing option.

Dithlakanyane says, "In the Accelerator training, they explained Grow ECD's curriculum and classroom kit. At my centre, I didn't have resources and didn't have enough money to buy what I needed. So, I applied for a low-cost loan from Grow."

"I had gotten quotes for loans before and those were much more expensive than what Grow was offering. And it does work. They don't just give you a loan, they look at your income and expenses and help you to reach the amount that you can afford to pay so that you are safe and not putting your business at risk," adds Dithlakanyane. 

Tracy Chambers, CEO of Grow ECD, says, "ECD Centres are not treated as small businesses, even though they are the backbone of preschool education in South Africa. Owners, mainly women, struggle to get loans to improve the quality of the education they offer and, ultimately, make more money for themselves and their predominantly women staff teachers. 

"Grow ECD in partnership with a financial institution is helping these women invest in their businesses," says Chambers. "We assess each centre's business and determine what they can afford so that the loan improves their business and does not become a financial burden they can't manage."

"We offer a holistic solution rather than just a loan, with comprehensive business mentorship and break-even analysis as part of the loan review process. To date, we have lent over R2.5-million, an average loan of R22 000, to 104 preschools with a remarkable 0% default rate," Chambers adds.

"It is not just about providing loans; it's about empowering women, transforming education and ensuring that ECD centres are recognised as essential small businesses contributing to the community's well-being," says Chambers. 

"I am so proud of my centre now," says Dithlakanyan. The classroom is organised, the introduction and implementation of themes are easy, and the children enjoy playing the different educational activities with the teachers. My teachers all know exactly what they must do, and I save time by not having to monitor them constantly.'

"More customers are asking about my school than ever before. It is a great feeling," Dithlakanyane concludes. 

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*Image courtesy of contributor