‘Emthonjeni’ multi-use early childhood development spaces

Image source: VPUU


Public water taps in Khayelitsha, Cape Town serve as points of connection for a community facing poverty and violence. ‘Emthonjenis’, meaning the place where water originates in Xhosa, are open-air learning spaces designed for young children built around public water taps. These spaces are part of a network of other areas and services where children and their caregivers can access quality early childhood development outreach programs. The network of spaces in the settlement creates opportunities for social interaction, while improving safety and access to basic services.

Khayelitsha Informal Settlement, Cape Town, South Africa

Violence Prevention though Urban Upgrading (VPUU)

Partner organisations:
Local Early Childhood Development Centres, Early Childhood Development Forum and non-governmental organisations around the different sites.

Pregnant women, children aged 0-5, Caregivers

Scale of proximity:
City, Neighbourhood

Built environment component:
Public space, Public water taps

Design insights

A network of safe walkways link each Emthonjeni to other nodal points, such as Early Childhood Development support centres. By adding physical structure, the Emthonjeni encourages a variety of activities to extend the function of a water source.

Participatory conceptualization, design, implementation, operation and maintenance are key success factors that lead to community ownership.
Employment of local labour whilst at the same time working with local volunteers, who gain access to skills development is important to ensure sustainability and long-term community ownership.

Early Childhood Development Spaces are located around water collection points to improve opportunities of social interaction. Prioritisation of spaces is done with the community.

Implementation insights

To achieve lasting change in building integrated communities, it is imperative to promote community ownership, strategic partnerships, monitoring and intermediary facilitation between community and public sector.




Intervention Type
Scales of proximity
Design guide phases

Related posts

Playful Cities Design Guide

Playful Cities Toolkit

Proximity of Care shorts: Espacio Lúdico – Sensing the city