Hey Dad!.

Impact Area:

Early Learning in the Home

Year of Investment and Stage:

2021 | Developing and testing to validate problem solution fit

Current Stage

Developing and testing to validate problem solution fit

Investment Amount:

R788 322

Financial Instrument:


Have we reinvested:




Hey Dad! is an offline mobile app that provides a selection of hands-on activities – in the areas of maths, science, and literacy – for fathers to do with their young children. The app will encourage positive father-child engagement and demonstrate the value of play-based learning as an entry point to increased involvement in the child’s life.

Development of the app will also provide insight into the barriers to active parenting that fathers in low-income communities experience, as well as support understanding into whether a play-based learning app with specifically curated content can contribute to overcoming these barriers.

The Problem

Based on their extensive experience in implementing Family Maths, Science and Literacy (FMSL) Programmes in low-income communities, the project team noted lower rates of male caregiver engagement in their children’s education. In most cases, this is understood to be due to male caregivers prioritising work given the pressure they feel to provide for their families.

However, the trend appears to change when fathers are given opportunities to engage in their children’s education at times that fit in with their work schedules, and when they are supported with the tools and skills they need. In specific, fathers tend to be more engaged when they engage in play-based learning activities with their children. This removes the pressure associated with formal teaching and learning.

The Innovation

The Hey Dad! app will offer a menu of hands-on activities for fathers to do with their young children, where together they will explore early learning in the areas of maths, science and literacy.

Some of the key differentiating aspects of Hey Dad! are listed below.

  • Each activity will be accompanied by a short demonstration video, understanding that behaviour change is most likely to occur when the desired behaviour is modelled.
  • Activities are short and designed to fit into the busy schedules of working dads.
  • Activities are non-intimidating and focus on learning through fun and play.
  • Activities will be suited to the local sociocultural context.

Because of the high cost of data in South Africa, data-rich content like video is not generally offered on apps that target low-income communities. Instead, most apps that target this audience are designed so that the content can be downloaded once-off. This limits the type of content the apps can deliver to text and pictures.

The Hey Dad! app will provide users who can afford data a streaming option for video content. Users who cannot afford the streaming option will have the option to use the app in conjunction with a micro-SD card on which the video is pre-loaded. The card will be distributed through the team’s existing network. During the course of the grant period, the team will interrogate the difference in uptake, usage and retention of users based on their entry-point, onboarding, and product offering characteristics.

Why We Invested
Currently, there is no app that targets South African fathers with practical but fun learning activities, that they can do with their young children at home. The project team of COUNT and EISH, through their combined 50 years of experience in the education sector, has a curated collection of tried and tested maths, science, and literacy activities and materials, which have are specific to the South Africa socioeconomic context.

Adapting these activities and materials for a digital platform will not only extend their reach, but will also explore whether fathers can be encouraged to have a more engaged role in their children’s education if barriers associated with physical location and time are removed.

The Project Team

Nontokozo Kunene, Programmes Manager at COUNT Educational Institute: Nontokozo is responsible for coordinating the rollout of COUNT’s development programmes and partnership management. Her experience lies in educational programme planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.

Nadia O’Brien, Curriculum and Content Manager at EISH (Educational Improvement and Study Help): Nadia has more than 20 years of experience in education, designing ECD, Primary, and High School curriculum-aligned content for print, television, radio and digital platforms.