Accessible Early Childhood Development (ECD) and affordable early learning programmes for all children in South Africa

See how we do it

About us

The Early Learning Resource Unit (ELRU) is a nonprofit organisation with forty-three years’ experience in the Early Childhood Development (ECD) sector. Established in 1978, we support the cognitive development and executive functioning skills of vulnerable young children ages 0–6 by building the capacity of the adults around them.

Programmes include: home visiting (first 1000 days) from conception to age 2, early learning playgroups (ages 3–5) and centre-based support (ages 0–5).

Systems that promote healthy development through each age and developmental stage are enhanced through ELRU Programmes and

advocacy, creating circles of support around the young child from conception, with particular care for pregnant women, primary caregivers, early childhood practitioners and ECD principals.

Through ELRU Programmes, vulnerable young children are provided with comprehensive support that facilitates access to an integrated package of services that are critical for optimal growth, health and advancement in life. This 'essential package' includes child and maternal healthcare, nutrition, social services, early opportunities for play-based learning, and support for the primary caregiver.

ELRU currently works in three provinces within South Africa: Western Cape, Northern, Cape and the North West.

We believe

We believe that ensuring the access of every child to the essential services and support they need from conception until they start school, is the best way of securing their wellbeing and learning success, and a prosperous future for our country

Children are meant to thrive, not just survive.


A good start in life for every child


Building tomorrow, today by facilitating better child outcomes for children in vulnerable communities through effective early intervention programmes.

Access for all children to quality Early Childhood Development services

Home based

Our home visiting Family and Community Motivator (FCM) Programme is aimed at the first 1000 days (conception to age 2) and ensures that pregnant women and primary caregivers are equipped with tools and skills to support the healthy development of young children.

Community based

The Playgroup Programme empowers caregivers and communities to extend quality early childhood development programmes to vulnerable children (3–5 years) who may not have access to, or can't afford, formal ECD Centre programmes.

ECD Centre based

The Whole Centre Development Programme provides holistic support to community ECD Centres. We help practitioners create optimal environments that are conducive for the delivery of quality ECD programmes through Centre support, mentoring and training.

The Essential Package

Studies show that investment in ECD is one of the most effective long-term strategies for alleviating poverty and achieving social and economic equality. ELRU recognises that young children begin life with great potential that can be maximised through early investment. By providing access to basic needs such as love, food, play, positive parenting, health care, early learning and social support, children will survive and thrive. These combined elements make up an 'Essential Package' of services which is critical to the holistic development of young children.

Why invest in ECD?

Early childhood is the most critical phase of human development. It starts from conception, when a baby’s body and brain are formed, continues through early infancy when essential relationships are established and developmental milestones are reached. Understanding the need to invest in early childhood development (ECD) is essential in maximising the future well-being of young children. An investment in high-quality ECD is the best investment a country can make.

Challenges in ECD

There are major challenges facing early childhood development (ECD) in South Africa. The more significant of these is the lack of access to quality early learning programmes with gaps in infrastructure, practitioner training and qualification, nutrition, health services, ECD programming, institutional capacity and funding. ECD Centres remain the dominant form of provision and the system is blind to the majority of vulnerable children who are outside of it.

Adopting a population-based approach

The whole community is considered when determining the needs of a given area. Ultimately our goal is to achieve universal coverage i.e. that each child in a given community has access to quality ECD, via an ELRU programme or any other service provider. Our aim is to enable greater access and improve the quality of services and programmes available to children in poor communities, in order to ensure their optimal physical, emotional, social, intellectual, mental and spiritual development. We do this by facilitating access to an 'Essential Package' of services for ECD support which includes early learning, health, nutrition, social services and support for the primary caregiver. We accomplish this through the following interventions:

Home and community based Programmes

Our Programmes promote nutrition, health, safety and hygiene, supportive parenting and cognitive stimulation for caregivers and children age 0-6 who do not have access to, or can't afford to attend an ECD Centre.

Centre based development and enrichment Programme

Our Programmes are aimed at ensuring that children attending ECD Centres receive quality care and services, and that all practitioners are capacitated to deliver optimal
learning programmes.

Training, capacity building and resource provision

Training, mentoring and materials development guide our work, while being shaped by ongoing monitoring and evaluation of not only the progress and development of the model, but its impact on the holistic development of the child.


ELRU on eNCA News

ELRU Director, Tracy Fortune spoke to eNCA news anchor Sally Burdett about the need for child nutrition
during the critical window period of development from age 0-6.

Click here to watch

Just launched...

The ELRU Academy!

Top-class, online, blended learning opportunities to upskill
our valuable early childhood development sector

Click here

Thank you to all our Partners in Development

Benefits for Donors

Tax relief: ELRU can provide you with a Section 18A tax certificate for your monetary contribution, on request.

To receive this, please send us an email with proof of payment and your postal address.

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Our Annual Reports







Learning and stimulation activities for children ages 0–6

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ECD Centre Registration

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STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art Maths)

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ECD centre registration info and Standard Operating Procedures

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Learning and stimulation activities by age and stage

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Steps for Registration

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Cape Educational Trust t/a Early Learning Resource Unit
Standard Bank (Code 026209)
Business Cheque Account
Account number: 072896604
Swift code: SBZAZAJJ

Get in Touch

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19 Flamingo Crescent, Lansdowne 7780, Cape Town, South Africa
+27 (0)21 762 7500