What we do

Early literacy

We train teachers, ECD practitioners and parents to build young children’s language, and reading and writing skills.

Early Childhood Development

We promote young children’s holistic development with emphasis on responsive care and learning through play, and facilitate intersectoral collaboration between government, civil society and business.

Food Gardens

We support ECD centres to grow vegetables and fruit to provide young children with fresh, healthy food to help meet their nutritional needs.

Our approach

Our name is translated from an isiZulu phrase that means ‘spread your wings’.  We believe that for young children to realise their potential and spread their wings, adults need to actively support their development, growth and learning. 

We agree with leading early childhood development researchers at the Centre on the Developing Child that ‘early childhood is a time of both great promise and considerable risk. Assuring the availability of responsive relationships, growth-promoting experiences, and healthy environments for all young children helps build sturdy brain architecture and the foundations of resilience.’  (See here)

This approach takes time and requires long-term vision and commitment. We do not aim to provide quick fixes to the many challenges facing rural communities in northern KwaZulu-Natal.  Rather, our efforts focus on working with and inspiring adults – from government officials, civil society and business, to educators, ECD centre staff and parents – to ensure the health and wellbeing of young children.  

A healthy society of creative, constructive and compassionate citizens starts with ensuring the wellbeing of young children.

We are guided by the South African Constitution and the country’s policies, as well as internationally recognised strategies that help young children to reach their potential.   Our approach is underpinned by research, development principles and participatory processes that recognise and integrate the local context, beliefs and practices.  We are aligned to the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (adopted, July 1990), and especially to Article 4, which states that: 

“In all actions concerning the child undertaken by any person or authority the best interests of the child shall be the primary consideration.”

Who we are

Meet the team

Lynn Stefano


M. Agric (Food Security) UKZN, PG Dip (Rural resource management) University of Natal.

I started working in rural development in 1997, first in subsistence/small-scale farming, community development and adult education, and later in early childhood education and early literacy. I was director of the Family Literacy Project (FLP) for 6 years, working with 15 deep-rural communities in the southern Drakensberg. FLP’s programmes at that time included early and adult literacy, community Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMC), a baby and young child home visiting programme, community libraries and adult saving clubs. From 2014 to 2019 I led Wordworks’ Every Word Counts (EWC) programme (pregnancy to 5 years), training and supporting 35 ECD NGOs in three provinces to implement EWC. I also evaluated Africa!Ignite’s Telling Stories of KwaZulu-Natal programme, using participatory monitoring and evaluation, and joined Africa!ignite as Education Programmes Manager from July 2019 to June 2021, reshaping the programme to strengthen early literacy outcomes. I established Lulamaphiko in July 2021 to focus my efforts on the early education and care of young children in rural areas of northern KwaZulu-Natal. My deepest interest has been to create environments where people have agency and where local knowledge and external expertise work together for the good of communities, and especially children.

Dipo Mhlongo

Young Child Team Leader

Studying towards a B Ed (Intermediate Phase) Unisa.

I am a storyteller and Lulamaphiko’s Young Child Team leader. I worked in Africa!Ignite’s Telling Stories of KwaZulu-Natal project in the southern Drakensberg from 2013, responsible for leading a team of 4 storytellers who visited 20 municipal libraries each year for a week at a time, to promote storytelling and reading, and to introduce rural children to their local libraries. From 2019 I led the storytelling and early literacy team in Mbazwana, training teachers, ECD principals/practitioners and parents using Wordworks’ materials, distributing many thousands of Book Dash books, and mentoring teachers in their classrooms. I joined Lulamaphiko to lead our Young Child Team working in uPhongolo and uMhlabuyalingana. I also translate and record Wordworks’ materials into isiZulu for sharing with ECD practitioners and parents.

Lwazi Thwala

Early Literacy and Food Gardens Facilitator

I am a storyteller and a passionate gardener with a productive homestead garden where I use organic farming methods. From 2019 I worked in Mbazwana training and mentoring teachers, ECD practitioners and parents, and worked with children in their classrooms. I am now drawing on my experience in adult education to train and mentor ECD centres to develop food gardens based on sustainable, organic farming practices and to support ECD practitioners to include gardening in their daily programmes for young children.

Sthembile Zikhali

Libraries and Early Literacy Facilitator

Library assistant, Occupational Certificate, Universal Knowledge Software.

I worked as a storyteller in Mbazwana until 2018, when I began my studies as an assistant librarian. I was an intern at the Mbazwana Public Library for one year to complete my studies. I joined Lulamaphiko in July 2021 as a trainer in the Wits University Classroom Libraries Research Project. I continue to promote classroom libraries in Foundation Phase classrooms in 30 schools in 2022, aiming to get books into the hands of children and for them to take books home to read. I also facilitate early literacy workshops for ECD practitioners to improve their classroom teaching and learning.

Ntuthuko Mabuyakhulu

ECD Facilitator

B. Social Science UKZN.

I am a social worker based in uPhongolo, working in the Do More Foundation’s Young Child programme. I am responsible for facilitating all our activities that aim to improve services and programmes for young children in the municipality. These include organising monthly Young Child Forum meetings for ECD principals and the DSD’s Child Care and Protection Forum meetings for government and civil society, keeping the ECD centre database updated, assisting ECD centres with challenges when applying for DSD registration, providing logistical assistance for our workshops and events, and assisting the team with IT.

Ingrid White

Finance administrator

IMM Batchelor of Business Administration (BBA) graduate.

I joined Lulamaphiko in July 2022 to take on the office and financial process management, essentially the administrative linking between the funders and the work that gets done in the field. I have a keen eye for detail and a passion for accuracy, as well as creative and marketing experience. With my many years in a global-corporate industry I hope to bring elements that can better help support the team and enable them to get on with the important work that they do. As a mom to a 7-year-old, I am involved in a childhood literacy journey of my own. With this, and having taught dance to young children for most of my adult life, I connect personally to the early childhood development passions of Lulamaphiko. This amazing team works hard at making small but truly significant changes in people’s lives and I am honoured to be a part of what they do.

Siyabonga Ntombela (ECD Facilitator) and Edward Nkosi (Driver) work with us on a part-time basis.

Meet our board

Mr Stefanus Nothnagel

Chartered accountant and founding director of Dalmeny Consulting which builds financial capacity in the NGO sector. Fanie is our chairperson.

Mr Naftaly Ngugi

Qualified educator and director of Pamoja Experience cc.  Naftaly has provided leadership and emotional intelligence training for schools and the private sector, and is a registered assessor with Services SETA.  He has led over 40 climbs up Mt. Kilimanjaro and over 50 climbs up Mt. Kenya with people from all corners of the world.

Dr Thembinkosi Mdletshe

Dept of Education Centre Manager Mbazwana.  Dr Mdletshe is also responsible for four additional education centres in uMhlabuyalingana District.  Dr Mdletshe is currently doing religious studies. 

Ms Hannah Carrim

Studying towards a PhD in history education at UCT, with bursaries from Canon Collins Trust and the NRF, Hannah taught English and history for five years at St Cyprian’s School for Girls and Van Riebeek High School, Cape Town, before starting her PhD studies in 2020.  She has a Master’s in Development Studies and Postgraduate Certificate in Education from UCT, Honours in Historical Studies and B Soc Science (Philosophy and Economic History) from UKZN.

Mrs Lynn Stefano

Details under ‘Our Team’ above. 


  • KZN Reading Coalition

Where we work

We work in remote areas of northern KwaZulu-Natal bordering Eswatini and Mozambique.

uPhongolo, Zululand District 

uPhongolo is one of five municipalities that make up the Zululand District, covering 3230km2.  The distance along the N2 from Mkuze on the eastern border to Belgrade on the western border is 105km.  Eswatini forms the northern border with the Municipality, while Mpumalanga is on the north-western border. According to 2016 Census data, the uPhongolo Municipality had a total population of 141 247 (IDP March 2021).  39% of the population is under 15 years of age.  The majority of children in uPhongolo live in poverty, with 66% of households receiving no income or less than R2 400 per month (IDP Review 2019).  According to the Department of Health, malnutrition is the most critical health threat for young children.  We work in all 15 wards in the Municipality. 

uMhlabuyalingana, uMkhanyakude District 

The municipality is home to an estimated 172 077 people with an average household size of 5 people (IDP 2019, The Community Survey 2016). Household income levels in the municipality are extremely low, with 44.9% of households earning no income.  Only 3% of the economically active population within the municipality earns more than R1600 per month.  Most people survive on around R500 a month, with a relatively high dependence on social grants. (IDP 2019). We work in 7 wards in the municipality.

According to the ECD Census 2021 report, only 17% to 26% of children under 5 years of age are enrolled in an ECD programme in the uPhongolo and uMhlabuyalingana areas.

Our reach

(as at November 2023)


Wards in Pongola


Wards in uMhlabuyalingana


Funding partners


Resource and training partners 


ECD centres supported


ECD principals and practitioners received training and resources


Children received nutrition support


Children 0-5 years in ECD centres benefitted


Primary schools in uPhongolo and uMhlabuyalingana


Foundation phase teachers received training and mentoring


Foundation phase learners benefitted


Parents benefitted


Children in homes benefitted