Our Story

Our goal is to teach as many parents, educators and community workers about the importance of learning through play as we can (as opposed to rote learning and meaningless repetition which is what is currently happening in so many early learning centres) and to show them how easy it is to provide fun activities for their children so that they can develop vital educational foundations.

Research around the world has shown that the best way to break the poverty cycle is through education, but unfortunately our South African education system is in a crisis:

  • Less than 50% of the children who start Grade 1 make it to Matric.
  • Of those who do stay in school until Matric, a quarter of them are not able to attain the 30% pass mark.
  • The Annual National Assessment (ANA) results from 2014 (the last time these national tests were conducted) show that the average Maths result of a child in Grade 5 is 37%, and in Grade 9 is 11%.
  • The World Economic Forum consistently places South Africa last in the world in Maths and Science education results (The black and red lines on the graph above show when the foundations for Maths and Science are built.)

We can change these frightening statistics!

Our young children, whether they are at home or in a crèche, need to have access to

1) caregivers or parents who understand that they are the key to their child’s educational success, and

2) educational toys.

But with an estimated 5,7 million children under the age of 4 in South Africa, how do we help to transform empty crèches and homes into environments filled with enough equipment to ensure busy, happy, stimulated children? If we provide purchased educational toys, who would replace them if they got lost or broken? And how would we get these toys into all the homes of the children who really need them?

Singakwenza decided that a creative and sustainable solution to this problem was needed and looked around to see what was freely available throughout the country that every parent and teacher would have ready access to. And what we have an abundance of in South Africa is rubbish! We have therefore developed a whole range of educational toys that teach the same concepts as purchased toys, but for zero cost. Bread bags now become skipping ropes, margarine containers become cars, polystyrene trays become puzzles, yoghurt containers become shape sorters and cereal boxes become dice. All the parent or crèche teacher needs is a pair of sharp scissors and a marker pen, and she will be able to get everything she needs to provide a fun-filled, stimulating environment….from the bin! And if a toy breaks or gets lost, it is easy (and free) to make another one. In addition, packaging that would usually be thrown away now has a value for both adults and children, so the programme is good for the environment too!



Julie Hay taught for many years in the Junior Primary and Pre-Primary phases, before purchasing a Toptots Mother and Child franchise in July 2000.Her passion for Early Childhood Development (ECD) had an outlet in this programme, and Julie spent 10 years teaching mothers how to provide the stimulation necessary to help develop well-rounded children with a solid foundation for learning. Her dedication and enthusiasm helped her to be the top Franchisee in the country for a number of years. During this period, Julie became aware of the difference that the ECD programme was able to make to children who had many social, physical and financial advantages, and wanted to bring the advantages of this programme to children who were not so fortunate. She therefore sold her Toptots franchise in June 2010, and began developing an ECD programme that utilises recyclable materials as teaching aids. Julie has two children of her own, and much of her motivation with working in this field comes from her need to provide her children with an awareness of how many people there are in need and how they can help those less fortunate than themselves.

“It is a privilege for me to be a part of this programme. I can’t change the world, I can’t even change a whole town, but every child whose life is improved by what we do, makes what I am doing worthwhile.”

Nondumiso Nzimande was the Project Manager for the Mobile Clinic from 2001 and helped to develop relationships with the KZN Government and local partners. Nondumiso translated our HIV programmes into Zulu, and is an expert Peer Educator Trainer and Counsellor.

“I’m honoured to be part of Singakwenza: Making a difference in people’s lives and improving their health and education is very rewarding. This project is very close to my heart as I have been part of it from the very beginning.”

Kgashane Mohale Kgashane worked for Anglo Gold as an Engineer and in 2002, obtained an MBA from Insead, and joined South African Breweries, where he worked until 2008. He worked as a consultant for Training Leadership Consulting and has various other entrepreneurial ventures. Kgashane runs a Teen Mentoring Programme at a High School in Randburg called Sekolo sa borogo (SSB) in addition to the input he gives to the Singakwenza programme.

Caroline Richter is a true blue South African, a farmer’s kid and passionate about South Africa. She is the co-owner and editor of the Meander Chronicle newspaper – the only newspaper specialising in all the good news which abounds in the province of KwaZulu-Natal and the country.

“I am incredibly proud to be a part of Singakwenza. Having seen it at work makes me enormously optimistic about the future of South African children and naturally in the long term, the future leaders of this phenomenal country!”

Reg Zammit Reg followed a career in Industrial Relations and was appointed Group Personnel Manager of the Tongaat Hulett group and then worked as a Director of Commercial Products at Hulamin. In 1989, Reg left the corporate world to start his own business and successfully developed an export-based business along with a packaging company called Foodpak. In 2004, Reg sold his export business and retired to follow his passion of racing pigeons, and is currently Chairman of the Kwa-Zulu Natal, Racing Pigeon Combine. Reg has also served on the Board of St. John’s D.S.G for 23 years and for the past 10 years as Vice-Chairman. Reg brings his years of business experience and wisdom to Singakwenza.

“Singakwenza deals with all the pressing issues facing this country: HIV, strained Health Care Services, Education and Capacity Building. It is essential to run this organization diligently because we have a duty to roll out these programmes successfully”.

Seelan Naidoo 

Rosemary Chite



Singakwenza, was “born” in 2010, when two friends, Julie Hay and Debbie McCarthy, decided to join their areas of expertise to create an organisation that would address, through education, two main issues facing many South Africans, namely Education and Health.


Julie Hay, an Early Childhood Development expert, had been working in the For Profit field for many years, teaching mainly affluent parents how to use play activities to develop their young children’s educational foundations. These parents were spending a large amount of money buying educational toys for their children to ensure that they were ready for school. It worried Julie that so many other children in South Africa, because of their financial situation, did not have access to these kinds of opportunities during this vitally important phase of their development. She came up with a revolutionary idea – to implement an Early Childhood Development (ECD) stimulation programme using only household packaging to make teaching materials and toys in areas where there is limited access to quality education. The programme was designed to provide children aged 1-5 with vital cognitive, physical, social, and psychological developmental skills, in order to prepare them for primary school, and to empower them with life skills from an early age. She decided to sell her business in 2010, launch Singakwenza, and dedicate herself full time to running the organisation, writing the programme and teaching the mentors.


Debbie McCarthy’s company, Training Leadership Consulting (www.tlc-global.com), had been looking at ways that businesses that they worked with could address the effects of HIV in the workplace. In 2002, Debbie and Nondumiso Nzimande worked with Linzi Smith from Education, Training and Counselling (ETC), an expert in the field of HIV, to compile a comprehensive HIV Peer Education Programme in English and isiZulu. In order to provide treatment for the opportunistic diseases associated with being HIV positive, a Primary Health Care Mobile Clinic programme was started under the guidance and support of Ray Baker, the Director of Corporate Social Responsibility for Kingfisher in the UK. The clinic was funded by Kingfisher, and staff and medication were funded by the Department of Health. This programme was formalised as a non-profit organisation when Debbie and Julie launched Singakwenza in 2010.

The key philosophy of Singakwenza is “Sustainable Change”. Most of the sites that the Mobile Clinic was servicing were resistant to the Peer Education Programme, which meant that the Mobile Clinic was merely providing a “band aid” for the symptoms of HIV and not treating the root cause. Over the years, Primary Health Care became a key focus for the South African Dept of Health (DoH), and by 2014, they were providing these clinics to most areas in the district.

Therefore in 2015, the Singakwenza Board made a strategic decision to no longer provide the Peer Education and Mobile Clinic programmes, and instead to focus on educating children from a young age to make healthier choices. As per the agreement with the Dept of Health, the Mobile Clinic was transferred to them and they will continue providing the Primary Health Care service to the sites that Singakwenza had been servicing.