The Otto Foundation is an education-focused philanthropic organisation established in 2016.
We support primary schools in becoming (i) sites for quality education, and (ii) safe and nurturing spaces for children.
We are achieving these goals through collaboration and strategic partnerships with education innovators who share our vision and can contribute to school excellence in creative ways.
We have a particular focus on improving early literacy and fostering a love of reading among learners from disadvantaged communities, understanding that access to books and excellence in reading is a critical underpinning
of educational success.
Our strategic priorities
Our core mission is to improve early literacy by:
Expanding access to books by creating book-rich, stimulating learning spaces (like libraries),
Promoting reading for enjoyment, and
Creating and promoting contextually relevant reading materials for South African learners.
We do, however, believe strongly that school excellence, and excellence in particular skills such as reading and writing, require multi-layered, multi-partner interventions.
Where we form partnerships with particular schools (such as the Zonnebloem Girls' and Boys' Primary Schools) our programmes therefore include broader focus areas, including:
Ensuring that learners are physically, emotionally and psychologically healthy and supported,
Placemaking projects to make schools stimulating, creative spaces,
Broadening access to extra-mural activities (such as music and sport),
Workshops with parents and caregivers to encourage their participation in the educational journeys of learners, and
Teacher training and capacity-building.
The focus on Zonnebloem
To date, many of our projects have been implemented on the Zonnebloem College Estate – which houses both the Zonnebloem Boys’ and Girls’ Primary Schools.
Located in the heart of the District Six area, the Zonnebloem schools are powerful symbols of the impact of the apartheid government’s under-resourcing of black and coloured schools, and the devastating effect that the Group Areas Act and associated forced removals had on schools that were delivering quality education in these trying circumstances.
As South Africans and Capetonians, the trustees of the Otto Foundation believe that the Zonnebloem schools should be supported in every way possible to regain their status as centres of excellence and to send a message of hope about the possibility of positive change in education.
Planting the seeds of the Zonnebloem model
Through our work at the Zonnebloem schools, we are learning valuable lessons and have built a network of partners that would allow us to replicate impactful programmes elsewhere.
We are expanding the reach of the Otto Foundation through programmes at other schools in the area, including Holy Cross RC Primary School and Walmer Estate Primary School.
The Otto Foundation team
The Otto Foundation is led and managed by a team of three women who are all passionate about South Africa, about education, about literacy, and about the transformative power of books and stories.
Chief Executive Officer