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 45 000 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.







True North has been actively implementing in Vrygrond and Overcome Heights for almost 9 years now and over time, as our relationships, knowledge and influence within the community grew, we developed what is now known as the Rainbow Development Framework, which is a progressive development journey that trains, supports, equips and connects preschool principals and their staff (teachers and assistants) to achieve the
following outcomes towards young children being ready for grade R:

  1. To provide pre-school services to the maximum number of children for the child space ratio (to maximize quality care provision and earning potential)
  2. To become a legally registered pre-schools (To meet all the health, fire, building and organizational requirements to ensure a safe, sustainable and well managed facility)
  3. To become financially viable (to create and retain consistent employment to staff and care to the children and contribute to the economy)
  4. To implement a quality educational programme by qualified staff (to provide a play based learning environment that meets the age appropriate needs of the children provided by caring and qualified teachers)
  5. To have holistically developed leaders (to lead their staff, manage and grow their pre-schools and give back generously to their community)
  6. To give back – This is important for the sustainability of the RDF model. Creating a culture of being grateful for what you have received and then paying it forward.

When pre-schools partner with True North a baseline assessment of the pre-school is done and thereafter they are assigned a colour band based upon their results. The colour bands and an overview of their areas of focus are highlighted in the following graphic.


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.