Our Khula Nathi programme was launched in 2018, in partnership with the Engelhorn family.

Studies show that a significant number of young learners entering Grade 1 in South Africa are under-prepared for formal learning due to inadequate early learning experiences. Consequences include high failure and dropout rates. Effective school-readiness programmes can be used to bolster early learning and in turn mitigate the negative consequences.

Khula Nathi “grow with us” is a Zip Zap Circus programme that uses early childhood development principles to provide children with alternative and quality early learning experiences through the circus arts and related activities. The programme is run in collaboration with 6 ECD centres (3 from Imizamo Yethu and 3 from Hangberg, both informal settlements in Hout Bay).

The selected ECD centres have committed to a 2-year programme with the same group of 30 children per centre, in the age-groups 4-5 years in the first year and progressing to 5-6 years in the second.

Children are bussed in on sponsored transport to and from the Zip Zap Academy venue in Salt River, Cape Town.

Early Childhood Development programme
Early Childhood Development programme


The Khula Nathi programme successfully completed the pilot of its 2-year programme at the end of 2022. 186 young children experienced the circus magic by being able to learn through play in a unique and exciting environment. An important part of the experience was the sponsored transport, which allowed the children to access the workshops safely, while also providing an opportunity for an excursion to Zip Zap’s Academy.

The programme supports Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres in preparing learners to enter mainstream schooling, and the methodology of learning through play is a very effective vehicle through which to encourage development in an unobtrusive way. Specific activities helped the children learn balance, dexterity, movement and dance, which complemented activities offered at their respective ECD centres. Children learned through observation, listening and mimicking as they were challenged to complete tasks. The Zip Zap instructors represented new authority figures, which was essential in acclimatizing participants to new environments while also reinforcing healthy discipline. All the participants thoroughly enjoyed the workshops and teachers reported that they displayed greater confidence, appear to engage better with their peers and are more inclined to participate in physical activities. Most of the children (96%) displayed improved language and communication skills, which positively influenced their abilities to follow instructions to enable them to execute tasks.

Teachers were encouraged to replicate activities at their respective ECD centres to ensure continuity.

“The children use the skills they learn at the Zip Zap workshops when they play on the school jungle gym.” –  Teacher 




Coaching Support (2 Alternating)

“For the past 29 years we have seen stars in the eyes of all children entering Zip Zap. That ‘spark’ is what we work for, to ensure it continues shining until they become independent, caring, responsible adults. It is worth cultivating because only once each child knows their worth will (s)he be on the path to growth. We have seen many times that participation in our programmes overcomes low self-esteem, anger, frustration, despair, and rejection.   More than 15,000 young people have gone through that process with us over 29 years.”

– Zip Zap Co-founders


Programme Success

Zip Zap is proud to have concluded the first 2-year programme in partnership with 6 ECD centres located in the Hout Bay area. The programme provided a more focused approach to improving levels of school-readiness of participants.

It was gratifying to receive consistent feedback from teachers that the programme had contributed to increased levels of confidence and creativity among the children, as well as improvements in physicality. The teachers referenced the bus ride to attend workshops at the Zip Zap Academy as an exciting excursion for the children. The teachers replicated activities taught during workshops and shared these with colleagues.

For more information on how to join one of our programmes, email 




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