Premium Containers
18 February 2016

Shipping Containers Serve a Social Purpose

Many disadvantaged communities in South Africa are faced with a childcare crisis; parents are struggling to find day care centers at which their children can be supervised while they are at work. A Cape Town-based social enterprise, Matchbox Africa, has been working with local caretakers to provide day care and education facilities for children in areas such as Mfuleni.

Cebolethu Educare Center: Image by Matchbox Africa via The Guardian

Cebolethu Educare Center: Image by Matchbox Africa via The Guardian


In many South African townships, there is a lack of proper childcare facilities such as crèches and day care centres.  While there are many courageous and nurturing women who have opened up their homes, many communities are still under-resourced; this lack of childcare facilities is problematic because it often leads to “underdeveloped skills and anti-social behaviour once children start school, often resulting in low achievement, high dropout rates and ultimately a greater risk of unemployment, drug abuse and crime” (Matchbox Africa Website).

Matchbox Africa’s work is based on their recognition of the fact that “developing children need a positive, healthy and safe environment”.  According to Matchbox Africa, they “work hand-in-hand with communities to develop upgrade strategies for existing crèches”.

Matchbox Africa has dedicated its time and resources to building early childhood development centres (ECDs) in Cape Town townships; these ECDs are built from repurposed shipping containers. Parents and caretakers are involved in each project, from construction to painting.

Cebolethu being painted

Parents painting day care: Image by Matchbox

Cebolethu Container

Cebolethu container being delivered

The structures are designed to be safe and to accommodate the needs of the children; some of the centres come with a kitchen and toilet container. This great initiative by Matchbox Africa is another example of the versatility of shipping containers.

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