Impact Area:

Early Learning in the Home

Year of Investment and Stage:

2015 | Early Proof of Concept

Current Stage

Transitioning to Scale

Investment Amount:

>R1 Million

Financial Instrument:


Have we reinvested:



Closed, Active

CareUp is a free mobile app and responsive website (mobi-site) designed to improve early literacy through mobile messaging, audio files, activities and resources for preschool teachers and parents of children aged 4-5 years.  The mobi-site has been zero rated by the major cellphone networks in South Africa.

The Problem

Participation in quality early learning activities in the preschool years significantly enhances the ability of children to benefit from schooling. The best outcomes happen when the work of the preschool teacher is reinforced through meaningful interactions between parents/other caring adults and children in the home environment. Parents and teachers need affordable and practical, easy to engage with early learning content that motivates and facilitates quality interactions between them and their children.

The Innovation

Mobile phones, and especially smartphones, are more readily available than landlines (and even books) in hard to access areas of South Africa. They are also becoming increasingly affordable. Innovation Edge, The Reach Trust, and the Western Cape Department of Social Development (DSD) teamed up to show how content delivered via mobile phones can be used to positively impact early learning and development for 4 to 5 year old children.

CareUp, an Android app and mobi-site, sends regular messages and provides free quality learning resources to parents and teachers. The resources are made up of audio files offering information on things to do with the child; games; stories and inspirational messages. The app and content have been designed to use very little data and take into account the everyday reality of parents and children living in under-resourced communities.

Messages to parents and teachers are able to be coordinated, so that learning in the home reinforces the learning that takes place at the early learning centre. Use of CareUp is continually tracked so that uptake, usage and user experiences can be properly assessed and adjustments can be made as needed. All content is available in Afrikaans, English, isiXhosa and isiZulu.

Why we Invested

In a country where 4 out of 5 Grade 4 learners are unable to read for meaning, it is critical to invest in initiatives that establish strong literacy foundations for young children, so as to help close the achievement gap often observed in school results later on.
The partnership with the Western Cape Department of Social Development established a pathway to scale from the outset and ensured that the app was developed with Government priorities and systems in mind.

The Project Team

The Reach Trust has helped more than 10 million people transform their lives through access to free education, health and counselling services on their mobile phones.

The Western Cape Department of Social Development ensures that a comprehensive network of social development services is provided to enable and empower the poor, vulnerable and those with special needs.

Wordworks is a South African non-profit organisation that focuses on early language and literacy development in the first eight years of children’s lives.

Nal’ibali provides a range of books that can be accessed via CareUp

Kelello Consulting were contracted to support the monitoring and evaluation of CareUp.