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SmartStart

  • LocationSouth Africa
  • SectorEducation
  • Type of investmentGrant
  • Project stageTest & Transition

A non-profit company creating social franchises aimed at scaling up quality Early Childhood Education (ECE) across South Africa. SmartStart currently reaches roughly 35,000 children a year through 3,500 practitioners in all nine of South Africa’s provinces, and is targeting 10,000 practitioners with the aim of reaching 100,000 children a year in its 2020-2022 phase.

SmartStart

The development problem

In South Africa, UNICEF reports that in 2017, 49 percent of children ages from three to five are enrolled in a group early learning programme, but it is estimated less than half of these, roughly 800,000 children, participate in programmes that are of sufficient quality to derive the expected ECE benefits. Furthermore, more than 1 million children, primarily from the poorest backgrounds, do not have access to any form of group learning programme.

The innovation

SmartStart is a non-profit company creating social franchises aimed at scaling quality Early Childhood Education (ECE) provision across South Africa. SmartStart currently reaches roughly 35,000 children a year through 3,500 practitioners in all nine of South Africa’s provinces and is targeting 10,000 practitioners with the aim of reaching 100,000 children a year in its 2020-2022 phase.

GIF’s grant will specifically be used by SmartStart to design and build a mobile-enabled ECE/ECD practitioner management and support platform, which will initially be used by SmartStart, but then ideally be adopted by the Government of South Africa, as well as other ECE/ECD providers.

GIF's investment

$1.46M

GIF expects SmartStart’s interventions to have a meaningful outcome on children’s learning and therefore set them up for future years of education and work. The vision of success for SmartStart is to fund and deliver their next phase of work so that the Government of South Africa recognises SmartStart’s two-day, non-centre-based ECE programme as a viable alternative to the current five day centre-based provision. This will be achieved through the scaling up of its program to 100,000 children a year. Ultimately, success will be achieved if the government supports SmartStart through Phase III in helping 1 million 3-4 years olds gain access to good quality ECE provision every year by 2025.

In terms of the mobile-enabled platform, GIF is seeking the successful build, launch and adoption of it by SmartStart practitioners, coaches and parents, as well as at least one other DGMT-affiliated entity. In the longer term, SmartStart should also be working with the Government of South Africa to incorporate child-level learning data from the platform into the country’s broader health and education information management systems.


Why we invested

  • Early Childhood Education and Development is proven to have a meaningful outcome on children’s learning and sets them up for future years of education and work.
  • SmartStart was established in 2015 and incubated by the DG Murray Trust, a well-respected leader in the human development space in South Africa with a strong relationship to the Government of South Africa.
  • GIF believes SmartStart’s two-day, non-centre-based model will ultimately reduce the cost of ECE provision whilst  increasing access, without adversely affecting learning outcomes, leading to its adoption by government and replication by other providers.
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