True North | Vrygrond ECD Project
True North is a non-profit organisation that is pioneering Early Childhood Development (ECD) initiatives within marginalised communities.
Early Childhood Development, South Africa, Enterprise Development, Vrygrond, Overcome Heights
page-template,page-template-full_width,page-template-full_width-php,page,page-id-15546,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,,qode-theme-ver-11.2,qode-theme-bridge,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-4.3.4,vc_responsive

Vrygrond ECD Project

Vrygrond and Overcome Heights, located near Muizenberg in the Western Cape, are two of the most concentrated examples of the challenges that plague poverty-ridden communities in South Africa.  At last count, Vrygrond was home to some 42 000 people, with approximately 5000 children in the 0 – 5 year old age category.  This community was one of South Africa’s very first informal settlements, and bears the legacy of many decades of inequality.

True North’s involvement in Vrygrond began as a fact finding effort in 2007,intended to record the challenges faced by vulnerable communities, whilst also exploring the framework provided by local and national government and quantifying the existing capacity within the non-profit sector.

Little did we know that Vrygrond was destined to become the focal point of of our work, as the findings related to Early Childhood Development in this community inextricably drew us into  a fully fledged, long term mission to serve the children who live and are educated there, and apply our learning to the greater field of ECD within developing countries.

Vital Statistics

From the outset it was clear that the provincial (Western Cape) statistics regarding the access to Early Childhood Development facilities masked Vrygrond and Overcome Height’s acute lack of resources, and accompanying near complete dearth of opportunities for pre-school children.

In Vrygrond, 70% of children have no access to any ECD facilities, compared to the mean of 42% for the Western Cape in its entirety.  The most significant difference, however, is that only 10% of Vrygrond’s preschool children attend a registered facility.  compared to the provincial average of 44%.


No Access

These children (3 525) have no access to ECD facilities of any kind


Home Based

These children (977) attend an unregistered facility.



These children (507) attend a registered ECD facility


Out of Centre

No children attend out of centre programs

Our Beneficiaries


ECD Centres


Teachers and Principals


Children 0-5 years old

During 2015 True North will pilot a satellite ECD centre” project, working with ten parents of young children from the local community.  

The project involves erecting five mobile structures that will comfortably house six children each. These schools will be linked to a registered ECD centre and be managed by the principal of that school. The goals of this venture are manyfold, firstly to provide quality care for children aged 0-3 years, and also to better understand the real-world implications and feasibility of an out-of-centre model within a community such as Vrygrond.

The Road Ahead

The need in Vrygrond is echoed within scores of communities throughout the Western Cape and South Africa. The knock-on impact upon the next generation of school-going children is self-evident, and the long term implications for our society is staggering.

But, despite the near overwhelming statistics, our team has drawn deep courage from the early results we have seen in Vrygrond.  The higher percentage of children within unregistered facilities can be, in part, attributed to the micro-level research that True North has conducted, as well as the implementation of programs since 2008.  The hope engendered by visible progress  has reconfirmed what has now become a part of True North’s logo, that every child can shine.

In order to create an approach that is scalable beyond the boundaries of Vrygrond, we are actively documenting our learning to date.  If you would like to be a part of this research, or apply it within your own context, we’d encourage you to read the Approach page.  More specifically have a look at the Key Principles and Implementation diagrams and accompanying information.

Photograph taken in Overcome Heights by Jonas Peterson