The Little Elephant Pre-Primary School started in 1991 (before the end of apartheid) as a non-racial school. As the school grew, the need for trained pre-primary teachers became evident, and in 1993 LETCEE (Little Elephant Training Centre for Early Education) was established by Dr Mary James. LETCEE started training mainly rural women in ECD skills.
The organisation has grown from a small, part-time initiative, training 6 women in our first year, to a registered NPC training more than 200 women annually. The training facility has grown from a single room to a centre, which consists of a training room, a residential block, a kitchen and bathrooms, as well as offices. In our 30 years of training, more than 5000 women have benefited from the high-quality training offered.
We have trained practitioners for the National Reception Year Pilot Project in 1995 and various other government tenders and learnerships. LETCEE was a member of the ECD Consortium which won the tender in KZN to conduct the nationwide audit of ECD provision for the European Union in 2000. LETCEE has worked with five rural communities implementing our holistic model for non-centre based ECD provision since 2001.
Having implemented projects in rural communities over many years, LETCEE has learnt that the approach has to be developmental rather than welfare-oriented and that ECD cannot exist on its own, but has to be linked to the wider life of the children in their families and communities. Projects include aspects such as nutrition and income generation, to have a lasting impact on children.
One of the greatest realizations was that there is a need for a real, rather than token partnership with the community which included decision-making and the setting of project budgets. These insights have led to the development of a unique, robust model for ECD intervention. This model was pronounced as a model of excellence by Unicef in 2009. Our work has attracted attention both locally and internationally, with LETCEE recognized as one of the leaders in ECD training and provision. The University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, as well as two international universities, acknowledge the value and quality of our work.