Early Childhood Development Service Learning Programs

Travel to the tourist town of St. Lucia and discover a South Africa reborn. Experience life in a rural Zulu village, where access to quality, equitable education is still limited. Your service-learning placement will focus on an area of demonstrated need within the service placement organization, and comprise a needs and assets analysis. You will use this analysis alongside theoretical learnings to develop a research paper or to produce a product-based initiative that addresses the need. The project should contribute towards the fulfillment of the program goal of impacting local issues and needs as it relates to Early Childhood Development, and the core principles of engagement, reciprocity, and public dissemination.

You can expect 70 hours of service time, learning to speak conversational Zulu, taking a Social Research Methods class as well as engaging in reflections and producing a final report or research paper.

This program is valuable as a holistic learning experience, and is particularly beneficial to those interested in the fields of Education, particularly Early Childhood Development, Human Services and Human Rights.


  • Learn to speak Zulu, the most widely-spoken South African language
  • Benefit from expertly-designed courses on experiential learning and research
  • Explore the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Experience life in a rural Zulu village, and gain an insight into traditional structures

Quick Facts

  • Location St. Lucia, South Africa
  • Focus Early Childhood Development
  • Recommended Credits Advised on request
  • Relevant Fields Education, Human Services and Human Rights

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Destination Description

Blessed by its natural setting, St. Lucia is a unique stunning place. Set in the heart of South Africa’s Zululand, the little town is surrounded by a wildlife-filled World Heritage Site, as well as by beaches and an estuary. Game drives in the area will offer you encounters with elephants, lions, leopards, and other exciting wildlife, and during cruises on the estuary, you’ll see plenty of crocodiles and hippos. Sometimes you don’t even have to leave the streets of St. Lucia for wildlife viewing, as hippos tend to wonder around town at night, monkeys play around, and occasionally a leopard is spotted. Apart from its endlessly beautiful setting, St. Lucia also offers access to some welcoming traditional Zulu communities, and you’ll have a chance to learn about their rich cultural traditions. During your free time, you’ll be able to choose between a wealth of fun ways to explore the area, such as safaris, beach visits, whale watching tours, Zulu village visits, and boat cruises.

Learning Outcomes

This program comprises five elements: service, reflection, communication, course work and research. Once you are on site, you will start with an induction, introduction to courses, setting schedules and an expectation workshop. The program ends with a presentation of research findings and a reflection workshop to evaluate the program and its elements.

Throughout the course of your placement, you will:

  • Learn to apply your academic knowledge to challenges in the fields of education and development in a South African context
  • Develop and apply critical thinking skills, both inside and outside the classroom
  • Expand your practical social research skills
  • Be exposed to intercultural learning
  • Develop your communication skills

Your four-week course has a 70-hour service requirement which will be customized to your choice of practical or research-based work. You will be supported throughout; the Business Manager will provide support for logistics and procedures, and your Academic Lead will provide support for course work and research.

Before embarking on your service, you will be required to undertake an extensive needs and assets analysis to determine your focus. This will form the basis of your practical or research project, and will inform your concept note and proposal, which will be reviewed by your Academic Lead and her team.

In conjunction with the 70 hours of community-engagement, you will acquire a new language, learn the basic tools of social research methods, learn actively through reflection and write a final research paper or report in lieu of the need identified and addressed through service.

Service Impact

According to leading statistics, over 51% of youth in the area are unemployed. A direct correlation exists between high levels of unemployment and poor education. No government-regulated framework for early childhood development exists in South Africa; yet this is the most crucial part of the education journey. Learners in primary school are tested in English, however in areas like St. Lucia, there is very limited opportunity to develop English skills before enrolling. This puts them at a severe disadvantage; a gap which may never be overcome.

This program has been designed to develop a strong Early Child Development intervention for the communities in St. Lucia. Here we support teachers, children as well as parents on maximizing the time the children spend in the Education Centers and continue the learning beyond. Your impact will be to engage, evaluate and support the ECD centers with the necessary capacities through practical and analytical information. This impact will be written and applied to sustain and to continue the delivering of effective and efficient ECD programs and apply ECD strategies. You will also impact the teaching and facilitating of actual programming strategies in the ECD centers and help reporting better on the programs we offer and the goals we seek to reach.

By carrying out workshops with teachers and parents, you can improve learning continuity at home to consolidate learnings. Spending one-on-one time with learners will allow you to compile baseline assessments for analysis, vital for ongoing monitoring and evaluation activities. In a collective role, you’ll ensure program continuity by planning and delivering lessons alongside a team of volunteers

  • WEEK 1:

    Your first week will comprise an in-depth orientation where you will meet the various stakeholders, familiarize yourself with your schedule and set expectations. An introduction into the local language, culture and relevant history of the area will provide key context to the subject matter.

    By the end of the first week, you will have a sound understanding of the subject matter and concepts to be explored. Your first reflection will ensure you are prepared for the activities in week two.

  • WEEK 2:

    In week two, you will settle into your routine and develop a keener understanding of how the five elements of your placement; service, reflection, communication, course work and research integrate.

    A meeting with your program adviser will ensure that you are prepared with a concept note for your research paper by the end of week two.

  • WEEK 3:

    After two weeks on your placement, you will have the requisite skills and contextual knowledge to deepen your inquiry. In your third week you will undertake research to develop your concept note in preparation of your presentation, which provides an opportunity to reflect on your personal development thus far.

    Meetings with your program adviser will guide your progress.

  • WEEK 4:

    Your final week will be geared towards the refinement of your paper as you prepare for your presentation. You will also prepare a handover document to ensure that your contribution to the project continues.

    Your program adviser will provide a consolidated review of your research, and your contributions to the various elements of the broader program.

Available February to November

  • Participants will be collected from the airport upon arrival and transferred to base
  • Accommodation on base will be simple, but comfortable shared rooms with communal ablutions
  • All meals for the duration of the project, with the exception of free days will be provided
  • Any transport required for program activities will be provided
  • Participants will be transferred back to the airport for their departure