Earlybird Educare@Work.

Impact Area:

Quality Early Learning Programmes

Year of Investment and Stage:

2016 | Early Proof of Concept

Current Stage

Transitioning to Scale

Investment Amount:

>R2.5 Million

Financial Instrument:

Grant and Equity

Have we reinvested:




Earlybird Educare@Work is a social enterprise which is building a network of high-quality Early Childhood Care and Education (‘educare’) centres across the socioeconomic spectrum in South Africa. A fixed portion of revenue generated from their workplace-based educare sites is used to subsidise the provision of the same high-quality educare model at preschool centres in low-income communities.

The Problem

South Africa has chronically high levels of socio-economic inequality. One of the perpetuating factors is unequal access to quality preschools. At least 1 million South African children aged between 3 and 5 years have no access to preschool educare services despite the large body of evidence demonstrating the importance of preschool for a child’s success in primary school and beyond. For those who do attend an early learning service, there is often little social integration across income levels, most of the ‘learning’ that takes place is rote, families are largely sidelined, and meaningful formative assessment is non-existent.
Ensuring affordable access to high-quality preschools for all children in South Africa needs to be a national priority.

The Innovation

Earlybird Educare@Work is innovative in that it taps into the trend of companies worldwide realising the retention, diversity and productivity gains of including workplace-based educare as part of their employee wellness package.

The Earlybird model sustainably provides high-quality early education at scale to children across the socioeconomic spectrum in South Africa through a three-channel approach:

(i) CORPORATE: They partner with large companies to improve the attraction and retention of talented employees by providing world-class, workplace-based educare services for their children. These sites can be Earlybird Nest Sites (limited to employees from a single company) or Earlybird Flock Sites (open to employees from multiple companies) sites.

(ii) DEVELOPER: They partner with property developers to reduce tenant turnover at their middle-income and wealthy housing estate developments by setting up Earlybird Flock Sites for children living in these estates (> R25 000 average monthly income per household). They also partner with social housing developers to set up sites for their tenants in their affordable housing developments (R 4 000 – R 9 000 average monthly income per household).

(iii) COMMUNITY: Revenue from their Earlybird Flock and Nest sites subsidizes the social franchisees who run their educare centres in low-income communities (< R 4 000 average monthly income per household).

Every aspect of Earlybird’s early education model is designed to equip children to flourish in school and in life. Earlybird educare centres are characterised by: (i) well-trained and supported teachers who meet each child where they are at to support their individual learning and development journey, (ii) an engaging play-based learning programme underpinned by rigorous evidence, (iii) regular and meaningful family engagement.

“Earlybird was founded with the express mission of supporting working parents and providing broad-based access to affordable, high-quality early childhood development centres,” says Megan Blair, Earlybird CEO. 

Find out more about Megan’s journey behind starting Earlybird and some of her learnings and dreams for the social enterprise here. 

Why We Invested

The members of the Earlybird Educare@work team are highly effective, with a clear vision and sustainable approach to delivering affordable, high-quality preschool services at workplaces and in communities throughout South Africa. Their offering represents a life-improving intervention for individuals and an equality-promoting investment for society as a whole.

The Project Team

Megan Blair (CEO) is a former teacher and Fulbright scholar. Meg draws on her experience from both the practical and academic side of the education aisle as she and her team at Earlybird work to build a scalable, high-quality preschool model for workplaces and communities.

Michelle Dos Santos has been a preschool operator for over 10 years. She is the owner of Little Ones onsite creche, which operates at the Siemens Head Office in Midrand. She brings to Earlybird a wealth of on-the-ground experience that benefits both the operational and curriculum teams.