Learn all about why we started Siphakeme, how we do it and the cost of our courses.

What does Siphakeme mean?

Siphakeme is an isiZulu word meaning “we are lifted”. Siphakeme was established in 2012 and is a ministry within the Methodist Church of Southern Africa based at the Metropolitan Methodist Church in central Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal. It is managed and financed independently of the Church as a registered Non-Profit Organisation (NPO 120-752) and Public Benefit Organisation (PBO 930044534)


Why was it started?

The first essential step in a lifetime of education starts in early childhood (under 6 years of age); firstly in the home and more formally from age 3 to 6 years in early childhood development (ECD) centres and pre-schools. The high failure rates at high school and at tertiary levels seen in South Africa can in part be attributed to lack of pre-school education.

Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world. Nelson Mandela

In 2000 an audit of ECD centres in South Africa highlighted the inadequacy of pre-school education. Less than half the children aged 5-6yrs were attending pre-school and only 10% of educators were considered adequately qualified. The inequity of distribution of ECD provisioning between different racial and socio-economic groups is highlighted.1


Building programmes for ECD centres and policies for early childhood education are in place, including the minimal level of training required for ECD practitioners are. Progress has been made. However, an audit in 2014 showed that only 43% of principals and 30% of practitioners have ECD teaching certificates of any level. 2

Many children from less developed and poor areas do not attend pre-school where they are prepared for formal education starting from Grade 1. These children struggle to learn without the basic skills learnt in a pre-school environment with qualified teachers and caregivers.

1 2001, Williams T, Samuels M: The Nationwide Audit of ECE Provisioning in South Africa: National Department of Education, Pretoria
2 2014, Audit of Early Childhood Development Centres National Report, Department of Social Development, Pretoria.


How do we do it?

The vision of Siphakeme is “Quality pre-school education for all”. To achieve this requires a multifaceted approach including adequately and appropriately trained teachers and practitioners for ECD.

The primary aim of Siphakeme is to enhance the quality of pre-school education through empowering and training pre-school educators from under-resourced backgrounds in the greater Pietermaritzburg area.

Siphakeme offers a creative, relevant, comprehensive and measurable training programme for pre-school educators, in association with other NPOs in the ECD sector. Currently two courses are offered – Educare and an ECD Level 4 SAQA accredited course.


From 2012 to 2015 the Educare course offered practical training to teachers already caring for pre-school children but who did not have formal pre-school teacher training and were unable to access such training because of their age, lack of school leaving certificates and/or financial support.

In 2015 Siphakeme signed a social franchise agreement with The Love Trust as an ECD Teacher Training Centre. Through this agreement Siphakeme extended its training and now offers an academic, accredited Level 4 course from the Teachers Learning Centre in Johannesburg for those seeking a career within the ECD sector.

  1. Educare:
    • Offers practical training on teaching children under 6 years over one year
    • Students attend classes twice a month for four hours during the school terms.
    • On completion of the course the students:
      • have some understanding of holistic child development,
      • know how to set up an environment suitable for learning,
      • know how to facilitate development of the child through themes, rings, play and storytelling.
    • The course is not registered South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA)
  2. Further Education and Training Certificate: Early Childhood Development (Level 4):
    • A part-time SAQA accredited course through Teachers Learning Centre in Johannesburg.
    • Requires completion of Matric (Grade 12).
    • Runs over 18 to 24 months.
    • Comprises of one three-hour contact session per week with the course facilitator.
    • The students study in groups and individually.
    • Assessment is through assignments presented as a Portfolio of Evidence.
    • Currently the lowest recognised qualification for teaching Grade RR children.
    • Credits earned are used towards Level 5 and higher qualifications.

Outcomes To Date

Total students completed the courses:

Educare: average of ± 50 per year (i.e. ± 200 to date)
Level 4: no graduates to date

Current students in training:

Educare: total of 65 students in 4 classes
Level 4: total of 40 students in 3 classes

Racial composition of classes: 95% black South African; 99.9% female (Only 1 male has completed the Educare course)
The return on investment for training competent and committed teachers is greater than indicated in the above figures. Each teacher trained is responsible for an average of 20 pupils per year in her place of work. Thus 100 trained teachers impacting on the education of 20 pupils means that 2000 children benefit each year.



Cost of our courses?

  1. Educare: – cost per class of ± 15 students = R50 000
    • Students currently pay R600 each = R9 000
    • Net cost = R41 000
    • 4 classes run at a time. Total to find = R164 000 per year
  2. Level 4: – cost per class of ± 15 students = R110 000 per year
    • Course lasts 2 years = R220 000 per class
    • Student pay R300 per month – transferred to TLC to cover cost of the material