Home Living in South Africa Family Childcare and pre-schools in South Africa
Last update on August 21, 2019

If you are living here with children, there’s a range of educational childcare options to consider such as creches in Pretoria or Cape Town, or pre-schools in Johannesburg. A list of pre-schools and childcare centres within South Africa is included in this guide.

If you are a working parent living in South Africa, there is a good range of childcare options and pre-schools in South Africa available. This comprehensive guide tells you everything you need to know including how to enroll your child in pre-school, requirements for pre-grade R and Grade R pupils, what’s on the Grade R curriculum, together with costs you can expect to pay for preschools and daycare facilities

It is written in the South African constitution that “everyone has the right to a basic education…” In recent years, the government has invested heavily in preschool and childcare centres to ensure a child’s education starts in early childhood development.

Subsequently, preschools in South Africa provide a Grade R curriculum recognised by the governments Early Childhood Development (ECD) program. It is the general consensus that successful early childhood development is an effort between parents, the community and the government.

The primary goal of the ECD program is to protect children’s rights to an education and develop their emotional, social and physical potential. The ECD program utilizes different learning processes, enabling children to learn about the environment and themselves.

Children’s rights and the ECD program

The rights of young South African children (ages 0-3) are expansive and include:

  • protection from physical danger
  • adequate nutrition and healthcare
  • appropriate immunizations
  • an adult with whom to form an attachment
  • an adult who can understand and respond to their signals
  • things to look at, touch, hear, smell, taste
  • opportunities to explore their world
  • appropriate language stimulation
  • support in developing their motor neurons, language and thinking skills
  • a chance to develop some independence
  • help in learning how to control their behaviour
  • opportunities to begin to learn to care for themselves
  • daily opportunities to play with a variety of educational objects

 Childcare in South Africa

When your child enters pre-school aged 3 or 4, their skills are developed even further and include:

  • Opportunities to develop motor skills
  • encouragement of language through talking, being read to, and singing
  • activities that will develop a sense of mastery
  • experimentation with pre-writing and pre-reading skills
  • hands-on exploration for learning through action
  • opportunities for taking responsibility and making choices to develop a full cognitive, emotional, social and physical potential

Pre-school in South Africa

The education system in South Africa is not compulsory for children until the age of 7 years old. Until then, you have the choice to send your child to a nursery and Grade R pre-school.

There are two preschool systems in South Africa: one is funded by the government and regulated provincially, and the other is independent and run by communities or private bodies.
Both the government and private programs consist of two main components: Pre-Grade R and Grade R programs (Reception Year). Pre-Grade R programs are intended for children between 0-4 years of age, and Grade R programs are appropriate for 5-6 year-olds. Lessons focus on language, mathematics, life skills, technology, arts and culture.

Check out the following listings of  preschools in your area for further information: 

  • Preschools and creches in Durban
  • Preschools and creches in Capetown
  • Preschools in East London
  • Preschools in Eastern Cape
  • Creches and preschools in Johannesburg
  • Preschools in Mpumalanga
  • Preschools in Port Elizabeth
  • Preschools in Kwa-Zulu-Natal
  • Preschools and creches in Pretoria
  • Preschools in Benoni
  • Preschools in Midranda
  • Preschools in Western Cape
  • Preschools in Gauteng
  • Preschools in Limpopo 

How to start one of the best pre-schools in South Africa

Schools in South Africa are either run by the state or a private educational institution. Parents are free to choose to enroll your child in any school that is registered with the Provincial Education Department providing there are vacancies.

Before choosing a preschool or day care facility, ask locals for recommendations and check the school is registered with the Provincial Education Department.

It should be noted that most preschools are assigned to one of the local schools in the feeder zone, so you should consider thinking long-term and decide which school you want your child to attend before choosing a preschool.

The general rule in South Africa is that children can attend any school you wish. However, children that live in the “feeder zone,” the area surrounding the school, are given priority. If you live outside the catchment area, schools will accept students on a first come, first served basis providing there are vacancies.

When applying to enrol your child in a preschool, you must provide the following documentation:

  • Your child’s birth certificate and residence permit
  • Immunisation card
  • School report and transfer card if your child has attended a school previously
  • If your child does not have South African citizenship, you will have to acquire a study permit and present this with your application


Schools have the right to refuse admission to students in accordance with government policies. However, your child cannot be refused admission in the following circumstances:

  • You did not pay school fees in a previous school
  • You do not agree with the school’s mission statement
  • You refuse to sign a contract waiving claims in the event your child is injured at school
  • Late admission
  • If you can’t afford books or school uniform
  • If your child is not a South African citizen
  • If your child has problems with the language
  • If your child is disabled
  • If your child is HIV
  • For racial, religious or cultural differences

Best preschools in South Africa

Expats in South Africa rarely have difficulties finding your child a preschool in South Africa. However, if you are refused admission, you can request a formal enquiry by contacting the Department of Basic Education on their free hotline: 0800 202 933 and ask for the Department of Education Rights Project.

If you want to enrol your child in a private school, you will find a list of appropriate schools in your area on this website.

Choosing from one of the many pre-schools in South Africa

It is not compulsory for children to attend pre-school in South Africa. Therefore, parents can choose whether you want to enrol your child in a state school or organise an early development program privately. You may also want to consider whether your child is ready for pre-school mentally and emotionally.

Whilst choosing a pre-school in South Africa it is recommended you visit the school first without your child. This will give you a chance to speak with the teachers and learn more about the Grade R curriculum. Also check their rules, regulations, practices and facilities fall in line with government policies. Pre-schools typically open at 08.30 or 0900 and close at 5-6pm.

Below is a list of suggestions provided by Huggies that offers practical advice for parents looking for a preschool in South Africa.

  • Ask for a copy of the Grade R curriculum and a program which outlines the weekly focus
  • Ask about their rules and whether they have an open door policy
  • Check the facilities for space, cleanliness and security
  • Ask about the range of toys and activities available for your child
  • Enquire whether the toys are cleaned regularly
  • Check if there is a noticeboard and whether the school contacts you by email
  • Ask what the ratio of teachers to children is (the legal requirement is one teacher for 25 children over 3 years old)
  • Observe the behaviour and emotional state of other children and how teachers interact with students. Do the children look happy and relaxed? How do teachers cope with children in distress?


On the second visit, take your child to test their reaction. This will give them the opportunity to meet teachers and other children and determine whether they like the environment. If you have reservations about how your child might cope at pre-school, ask the teachers if they think your child is ready for pre-school.

Enrolling your child in pre-school or for childcare in South Africa

The school year in South Africa starts in January. Parents are required to enrol children between 1 August and 31 October the preceding year. Grade R applicants must be four years old and turn five by the 30 June of the school year. Grade one applicants must be five and turn six by 30 June.

Creche fees South Africa

In order to enrol with a pre-school, you are required to complete an application form. Most schools will charge a fee for the application process in addition to annual fees. You are also obligated to pay a deposit of between R500 and R5000 depending on the school. In some pre-schools the deposit is refundable and in others it is non-refundable.

Creche fees in South Africa and the cost of sending your child to pre-school

School fees vary depending on the area you live and the standard of education offered by the school. On average expats can expect to pay between R1000 and R2300 a month for nurseries plus any additional levies such as mattress fees, hygiene, security and supplies. Such levies can add an extra R2000-R3000 a year on top of education fees. You should also budget around R2500-R8000 for the registration process.

Grade R schools are significantly less expensive and can cost anywhere between R8000 and R20,000 a year for state schools and from R30,000 to R70,000 for private schools. Boarding schools add an extra R50,000 a year on top of tuition fees. In poor areas, there are also no-fee schools and are based on the economic level of the community around the school so are subject to change.

Meals are typically included in the school fees, but you should check beforehand. Some schools recommend you send fruit and yoghurt from home. You will also be expected to pay for stationery and supplies for both pre-grade R and Grade R terms. Supplies include things like skin cream, wet wipes, nappies, tissues and toilet paper. School uniforms are also compulsory in most schools.

Activities offered during school hours include sports, drama and day trips. Because these activities are provided by state facilities outside the school, you will be obliged to pay an additional R500 a term.

Some nurseries also open outside the school year to act as a daycare centre for your child when you are at work. However, additional fees are incurred for your child to attend a nursery outside the school year.

If you are unable to pay school fees, the pre-school is still obligated to admit your child. Suitable arrangements can be made with the school to pay what you can. It should be noted, however, that a school can take legal action against you for failing to pay outstanding school fees.

If your annual earnings are 10 times less than the annual school fees, you are exempt from payment.

What is the Grade R Curriculum at nursery schools in South Africa?

The curriculum in preschool is divided into two. The pre-grade R curriculum introduces your child to reading, writing, basic mathematics and the basics of a second language. The pre-grade R curriculum lasts for three years.

The senior primary school runs the Grade-R curriculum which includes history, geography and science in addition to the staples started in junior primary school. Older students also learn handy craft skills such as needlework, woodwork or art. The basic education system in South Africa also provides parents with a Grade R Resource Kit, more of which you can learn about here.

You can also learn more about the pre-school curriculum and early development program in the Government’s CAPS document.

Childcare and creche fees in South Africa

Parents with children under 18-months have the option to leave your child in a crèche or educare centre that specialises in care for babies and toddlers up to the age of three.

Staff in childcare centers are required to have relevant qualifications in childcare, but may not necessarily have degrees in early childhood development.

An alternative option is to send your child to an educare center that focuses on educational activities. The staff there have qualifications in early childhood development and arrange an appropriate syllabus to help the progress of your child’s cognitive and social skills.

Both crèche and educare centers are fully-equipped with appropriate facilities including meals, drinks, snacks, nappy changes and cots for nap times. However, you may be asked to bring supplies to help with running costs.

Childcare centers in South Africa typically open at 06.30 and can look after your child for up to 12 hours. Expect to pay fees of around R1500 to R4500 a month depending on where you live.

Pre-schools in South Africa provide full day education, half day or three-quarter day. However, parents that work full-time should be able to find childcare facilities that accommodate Grade R children after school hours.

Many after school facilities provide space for children to continue their school work, whilst others focus on activities such as sport or recreational games that are educational and fun for students. Each after-school runs their own program so you will probably need to look around for the most suitable option for your child. Childcare and creche fees vary between establishments.

Should you currently be expecting a ‘new arrival’ and need advice about childbirth in South Africa click here.