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 Dome venue in the Foreshore, Cape Town.

Covid-19 Impact

Despite interruptions and delays directly related to COVID-19 restrictions, Zip Zap was able to complete all planned cycles of the programme, ensuring that all six identified Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres participated fully in the programme.

Following the temporary suspension of the programme, from 24 March 2021 to 19 May 2021, after having completed Cycle 1, the programme commenced again from 31 August 2021 to 27 October 2021. Cycles 2 and 3 were scheduled to run concurrently, on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, to ensure that no ECD’s we excluded from completing the first of a 2-year programme, as scheduled.

We are very proud to be able to make lasting impressions on participants in this programme! Our partners have reported that they look forward to replicating the activities learned at Zip Zap at their various ECD centres.

Early Childhood Development programme
Early Childhood Development programme


The Khula Nathi programme started later than scheduled, with Cycle 1 commencing on 24 March 2021, almost 2 months later than the start date initially planned, as a direct result of COVID-19 restrictions. With the move to risk-adjusted Level 3 effective 16 June 2021, followed by Level 4 from 28 June 2021, the programme had to be temporarily suspended. Following relaxation of the restrictions, with an eventual move to risk-adjusted Level 2 effective from 13 September 2021, all partners were comfortable for the programme to commence, with strict COVID-19 protocols observed. Very few interruptions were experienced following this, but the delayed start of the programme impacted on the number of training sessions envisioned. To ensure that all ECD partners were able to participate fairly and fully, Cycles 2 and 3 were scheduled concurrently on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, from 31 August 2021 to 27 October 2021. The lower-than-anticipated average attendance rate of 79% is testimony to the anxiety and uncertainty around the trajectory of the pandemic. However, it also illustrated the therapeutic nature of circus arts in helping the participants who attended consistently in helping them to cope with the demands of the pandemic and enjoy the joy of just being children!

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




    “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


    For more information on how to join one of our programmes, email youth@zip-zap.co.za



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