About Us

Why Did Little Bridge ECD Begin?

LITTLE BRIDGE Early Childhood Development (ECD) opened its doors in 2019 in a renovated residential house in the rural Karoo town of Prince Albert, South Africa. It is positioned in the heart of the poverty-stricken North End Community.
Little Bridge ECD – born of necessity – to plant the right seeds for nurturing underprivileged children
Little Bridge ECD was born of necessity: the enormous need for Early Childhood Development – an essential foundation for impoverished and disadvantaged 2-6 year old children. Without ECD, our children would roam the streets with no notion of the world beyond their environment and would begin their obligatory schooling in Grade 1 with a huge backlog in social, mental and developmental skills.
The Power of Early Childhood Education

From the World Health Organisation (WHO) to UNICEF, experts around the globe agree that high-quality early childhood development (ECD) programs are the key to shaping people, better societies, and, ultimately, a better world.

  • Without ECD, a child is 25% more likely to drop out of school, 40% more likely to become a teenage parent, and 70% more likely to be arrested for violent crime
  • Investing in ECD during the crucial brain development stages of a child’s early life can, according to the WHO, “improve the lives of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable children and their families, with profound consequences for societies at large”
  • ECD is a WORTHWHILE investment in monetary terms, too: for every $1 spent on ECD, the return on investment can be as high as $13.00

With these known facts and realizing that an apathetic complacency of “not in my back yard”, Anna-Marie Kaars Sijpesteijn, convinced her

husband, Jan, to get back into “action” and open Little Bridge ECD, in the area where it is most needed.

There is no quick fix for the social ills the township children of Prince Albert face.
But there is a way to:

  • Level the playing fields
  • Break the cycle of uneducated people
  • Give them a chance

The School

Little Bridge is a small, privately run school, accommodating, a maximum of 48 children under the dedicated attention of 3 fully-qualified teachers. The ages, due to space restraint, have been limited to 3-6 years old, including Grade R – the essential year before Grade 1.

FAREWELL DINNER BEFORE ANNA-MARIE LEAVES FOR AN INDEFINITE LENGTH OF TIME:
BACKROW LEFT TO RIGHT: Elize Fox, Anna-Marie KS, Dillon Fox (Financial Director)
FRONT ROW LEFT TO RIGHT: Melony Maans, principal, Wilma Kellerman, Sheroldene Heyns and Maureen Deelman

Due to our lack of space, we have unfortunately had to deny enrolment of the 2 years old. We fervently want to expand to larger premises and thereby be able to open a classroom for the 2 years old children. Our philosophy is: the younger a child is, the sooner we can start assisting and stimulating the blank canvasses and the better their chances will be!
WORKING UNDER A RAINBOW OF HAPPINESS
Although our small school has limited space, we can boast an extremely loyal and motivated team of teachers, whose main objective is to create a safe, nurturing and compassionate environment for our children and show respect for each child. Little Bridge operates under a rainbow of happiness, with small manageable classes, focusing on nutrition and hygiene, for example, the brushing of teeth after breakfast and snack time.
Qualified junior schoolteacher, Nicole Fuller, gives free English lessons three times a week. This makes Little Bridge the only dual language Early Childhood Development Centre in the area. Although Afrikaans is the “official” language in our community, it is essential that English be included in the curriculum, which will open more doors later at tertiary education levels.
The Grade R children are hard at work – most of the equipment that we use, is recycled material. But their pride and joy is having a “real” school book for themselves!!!!

The Sad Realities

Nutrition: healthy children can learn
As the above heading clearly states, working in a township is a not only a challenge and an eye opener but also a test of humility and compassion, making one realise how extremely “fortunate” we are. Our basic comforts, that we simply take for granted, like a warm meal, a clean, warm bed and daily clean clothes, just to name but a few, are completely “foreign” to them. In their world, alcoholic and (sexually) abusive parents and family, crime, shootings, stabbings and drugs are considered “normal”.
Therefore, nutrition is the key, not only to stimulate their brains, but fighting absenteeism as for many of the children, the only meals they receive, are those given at school.
Every Monday and Friday, double portions of breakfast and lunch are served to those children identified as getting little or no food at home. School holidays are still a challenge and unfortunately, financially, we are unable to provide the much-needed feeding scheme during these periods.
Sugar or any related products, are not permitted at school: snack boxes are checked for sweets (candies), biscuits and chips. The “sweet” taste bud is replaced with seasonal fruit, full cream milk (allergy dependent) and yoghurt. During the intense summer heat, fruit ice lollies are made from freshly squeezed seasonal fruit. In short, nutrition is a huge priority!
At the end of each school day, all equipment – from pencils to mugs – is sterilized to prevent the spread of TB, amongst other illnesses. The sterilization of all the used equipment etc, is done outside, avoiding the chance of the children encountering the Miltons. The above is the pro breakfast wash.
Domestic Violence and Sexual abuse

Sadly, it is necessary for the teachers to be trained in detecting signs of domestic abuse and/or sexual abuse, and to take the correct and immediate action where and when necessary.

With the backup of regular health checks provided by the local primary care clinic, we keep a strict health chart for each child to ensure that they are growing and developing according to the standard “norm” but these visits also give us the opportunity to identify, and act upon, eyesight and hearing problems. Through the clinic visits, we are guaranteed that all the children receive their regular vitamin boosts and often their necessary, outstanding vaccinations, given orally.

Little Bridge does not discriminate against race or creed, physical “differences” and is specifically welcoming of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

Badisa, our local social services, comes to school once a term to chat to the children teaching them protective life skills.
An experienced independent social worker, Ghiselle, visits Little Bridge once a month, reading apt stories that relate to the children’s social economic environment – Ghiselle offers her experience pro bono.
Financials
Maureen Deelman, Dolla, balances the books and encourages parents to pay the small monthly school fee of R 130.00. A seriously unrewarding task requiring mountains of patience and tact. The dilemma we face is whether to ask a child, whose parent is three months behind in payment of school fees, to leave. Sadly it is often these children who come to school every day and need the meals that leave the school operating on just 60% school fees. (The monthly school fee of R 130.00 is equivalent to approx. US$ 5.75, British pound 6.44, Euro 7.66).
Little Bridge is not prepared to lower their standards on nutrition and hygiene, despite the soaring prices, which results in Dolla having an unenviable task – but however difficult, she plods on with a huge smile!

The Bare Necessities

The School
Little Bridge operates under a rainbow of happiness with small manageable classes. The school is at full capacity with 48 children and is not permitted to expand despite the demand for a bigger space. Therefore, we are desperate to find new premises. The grounds are small and barren due to drought conditions and yet the children are happy to play in the dry sand, make use of the sandpit and two swings. Each day, a class is “in charge” of picking up papers and watering the few plants. This instils in them the notion that poverty does not mean you have to live in a mess. They also learn how each bottle top or plastic bottle can be recycled. Security is vital due to the violent nature of the community in which they live. Strict signing in and out of each child is mandatory. No child is allowed to leave the premises without prior signed approval from the parent.
Fund Raising
Fund raising opportunities are few and far between in the harsh social and economic environment in which the children live. Rather than expect to raise funds from the local community (many of whom are single parent households) we have to look further afield for the much needed funds. Anna-Marie Kaars-Sijpesteijn believes very strongly that “it is not our task to impoverished parents any further, but rather to educate their children to the best of our ability and within our meagre means”.

Little Bridge's Main Objectives

  • The main objective is to prepare the children with confidence, enjoyment of learning, an excellent sense of curiosity, and anticipation for Primary School.
  • To provide a safe, nurturing, and stimulating environment, encouraging the receptiveness of the broadening of the minds.
  • Stimulating and motivating the children to reach their age-appropriate milestones at appropriate times, through a loving environment
  • Providing the children with a healthy and nutritious breakfast, fruit snack and seasonal lunch with fresh vegetables.
  • Being vigilant of any child displaying unusual behavior and taking the appropriate steps to “investigate”
  • Adhering to strict internal health policies including the twice daily brushing of teeth, and daily sanitation of all equipment and plates/cutlery.
  • At all times, keep the communication channel open with the parents, grandparents, and guardians. Honesty, respect, and understanding are the 3 main ingredients for a successful partnership
  • In our journey to continue to strive for “excellence”, constant courses and empowerment of the teachers are essential.
  • Daily cleaning of the grounds and the watering of the plants, which encourages the children to be proud of their environment plus gain respect for, and interest in, Mother Nature.
  • Ensuring the constant safety of the children regarding locked gates, signing in and out, and to and from school.

The Founder’s Personal Vision

The essence of any successful educational institution is the dedication, professionalism, and education level of its teachers:
Creating a motivated, intelligent team of teachers who not only have the passion to teach but who will be empowered to act in crisis; understanding the budget and its limitations, acting professionally in disciplinarian situations, and working as a team respecting each other.
But most important of all, is to take initiative with confidence to ensure the continuation and growth of both pupil and schools, ensuring that as many children as possible, are able not only to enrol, but leave saturated with confidence for their next scholastic challenge.
Anna-Marie sees her role as that of custodian and will only “act” in times of real need. She strongly supports her team with confidence and trust.