Cape Town - 130921 - Children queue for food at the creche in Morkel Village, Strange. Disaster Management handed out food in Morkel Village in Strand. The low lying settlement is right next a river, the banks of which flood during heavy rain. PICTURE: THOMAS HOLDER. REPORTER: SOYISO MAKATINI

Francesca Villette

AN Education NGO has been given R10 000 to develop an app which parents could use to grade crèches – so that other parents can choose the best facilities for their own children.

The SA Education and Environment Project (SAEP) was awarded the funding at a workshop to brainstorm solutions for problems that early childhood development centres face.

The app will allow users to comment on how well crèches are run.

Early childhood development (ECD) practitioners and NGOs met technology experts at the weekend to brainstorm solutions to their challenges in ECD.

The workshop was hosted by the Bertha Centre – an academic centre dedicated to advancing social innovation and entrepreneurship – together with Innovation Edge, Stellenbosch University, Government Hack, Ogilvy and Silicon Cape.

The event was the brainchild of The Bertha Centre’s Camilla Swart and Stellenbosch University professor Mark Tomlinson.

The NGOs, Early Learning Resource Unit, The Chaeli Campaign, Cape Town Embrace, Think Twice, SAEP and the Foundation For Alcohol Related Research worked with technology developers to find a way to use technology to address ECD challenges, which included limited access to good nutrition, a lack of responsive care and an absence of early stimulation through playing.

The winning idea came from SAEP.

The Philippi-based NGO wants to create a mobile application parents can use to compare crèches they might want to send their children to.

Centre manager Kayin Scholtz said many parents who left for work in the morning would leave their children at the nearest crèche, although it might not necessarily be the best facility.

Scholtz said the application would help parents make an informed decision about where they would want to send their children.

“The app would create a platform for parents to compare and comment on the quality of crèches in the area.

“Parents would also be able to read the comment of other parents and come to a conclusion as to where they would like to send their child,” Scholtz said.

SAEP won R10 000 for its idea, which was submitted to the Innovation Edge Fund for seed funding of up to R1 million.

Francois Bonnici, director of the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship, based at UCT’s Graduate School of Business, said technology could accelerate solutions and the efficacy of the sector.

“Latest research shows that investing in ECD offers a high social return.

“However, the sector is fraught with complexity and we need innovation to surface new approaches to scale impact,” Bonnici said.

Sonja Giese, director of Innovation Edge, said improving access to educational resources for children living in marginalised communities could be made possible through technology.

“Advances in technology offer exciting possibilities for addressing challenges within the early learning space.

“How do we communicate more effectively with parents about early stimulation?

“Provide access to educational resources for children living in marginalised communities?

“Or strengthen early learning practices among practitioners who have no access to on-site support or supervision? These are some of the challenges we hope to address by innovating for ECD through technology.”

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