The LEGO Foundation’s first large-scale project was initiated in South Africa in 2009 in the Atteridgeville township near Pretoria. Teachers from 25 primary schools were trained in using learning through play tools and pedagogy with some 45,000 students aged 5–12. 

There are many urgent reasons for our presence in South Africa and we have teamed up with several organisations to change the perception of play’s importance in learning among parents, schools and governments.
South Africa faces a range of challenges in its education system both in terms of quality of learning, drop-out rates and exam failures. These have massive implications not just for the children but for the country as a whole. There are numerous and complex reasons for this situation. The good news is that it is becoming increasingly clear for many stakeholders in South Africa that action is needed – and especially within early learning - to address these challenges.

The LEGO Foundation is involved in a multitude of projects across the country and with a variety of partners – all aimed at lifting the general quality of education with a play-based learning methodology. Since 2009, we have reached over 1,000,000 South African children with learning through play.

Reaching children aged 5-9 in schools

In this initiative we focus on the Foundation Phase which includes children aged 5 to 9 in South African schools (Grade R to Grade 3). The purpose of the initiative is to counter the high drop-out rates and poor exam results amongst South African children by focusing on using learning through play in the early years of education to bolster engagement and heighten the quality of learning. By training teachers and introducing play-based curricula and the policies to support it, we believe we can help South African children to become ‘learning ready’ and have a better chance of getting a valuable education.

The initiative is supported by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and in June 2018 the roll-out will start in three districts (Gauteng, Free State and Eastern Cape). One of the most vital parts of the initiative is the P.L.A.Y training (led by UNICEF and DBE) where 150,000 practitioners and teachers get to grips with tools and methods to master learning through play. This initiative will be monitored closely, so we can establish evidence supporting learning through play and how it improves attendance, literacy and numeracy as well as illustrating the positive impact on whole child development.

practitioners and teachers will be trained in using learning through play

Reaching children aged 0-5

The South African Early Childhood Development (ECD) initiative will be focusing on reaching children aged 0 to 5 and positively influencing their learning. At 0 to 5 children are at the most crucial age for their development and highly susceptible to the positive impact of play. We believe it is vital to support these young children, so they are better prepared for school and already equipped and eager to learn through play. 
We already have a great deal of experience with how young children benefit from learning through play be it in the home, the community or with practitioners. Our current partnerships with Takalani Sesame, Smart Start and TREE have provided great insight into how we can best have a dialogue with those closest to the children about why play is important and how to go about embracing it.

We are looking to leverage our experiences, network and knowledge into a whole new project encompassing the most important stakeholders in the ECD sector in a massive push to bring play into these children’s lives. By 2019 we hope to kick off what we hope the furthest reaching and most impactful ECD initiative in South Africa to date.