The Sekolo sa Dinaledi Trust (School of Little Stars) is an initiative of the Mint Group. The Trust seeks to provide resources for its sole beneficiary, the Ekukhanyeni Relief Project.
Ekukhanyeni is an NPO that partners with fledgling creches in informal settlements and underprivileged communities and turns them into early childhood development centres.
These centres provide early childhood development services for toddlers and young children. Jackie Ahier, a Sekolo sa Dinaledi Trust trustee, has set her sights on achieving what could be a game-changer for South Africa. Her goal is to have 500 000 toddlers from disadvantaged communities attend early childhood development (ECD) centres in South Africa by 2030 to get them school ready. Launched in January 2020, the project already has seen 12 000 children go through Mint’s early learning programme, 1078 ECD practitioners have been upskilled, and 600 Grade R children have been prepared to enter Grade 1.
Jackie joined the Mint Group in 2017 to assist with the setting up and running of the Trust. She thrives when challenged and pushed beyond her comfort zone. When her children reached their teens, Jackie sold her Adcheck agency that monitored advertising in print for corporates and ad agencies and dedicated herself to helping others and creating a better tomorrow for all.
She started small – at first raising funds and organising events at her children’s schools.
Then her fund-raising efforts became more challenging. She climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with 15 women, three of whom were in remission from breast cancer, Together they raised R300 000 for the Breast Health Foundation.
After joining Surgeons for Little Lives in 2016 – an NGO of surgeons that perform lifesaving operations on children from impoverished communities – Jackie undertook a gruelling seven-day tandem cycle across Britain, from Lands End to John O’Groats, to raise funds for the charity. “It was a very proud moment when we completed that challenge. I had to dig very deep but vowed I would cross the finish line, even if I had to crawl! We raised significant funds for the organisation.” When it comes to her work at the Trust, Jackie feels proud to be part of a legacy to upskill people and educate young children in South Africa.
“While our target of 500 000 children by 2030 seems ambitious, we believe it is achievable if other companies and individuals join our Nation Building Drive to build South Africa’s economy through solid foundations.
We need to partner with another 3200 centres countrywide and raise R2bn to school-ready 500 000 children by 2030.”
Ekukhanyeni has thus far partnered with 21 centres, which have been upgraded from shacks to ECD Centres of Excellence and registered as NPOs. The children are fed nutritious meals through the project, youth in impoverished communities are upskilled, and teachers receive training. “Community members are taught how to grow food gardens, and the ECD centres have a sound curriculum that ensures children are ready to enter Grade 1.”
Jackie loves working at Mint. “Mint’s people-centric culture resonates well with my values. Minties live by their values of people first, passion, integrity and quality. They say what they do and do what they say.”