top of page
SAEP logo_colour with white text website_transparent.png


Our mission

Is to promote access to quality education for children, young adolescents as well as adults from marginalised communities through education, life skills and psycho-social support. 


Our vision

A generation of motivated youth (from early childhood to young adults), equipped with education and life skills to maximise their potential and contribute meaningfully to



SAEP's work at pre-school, primary and high school level is all focused in Philippi, one of the largest and poorest townships in Cape Town. There are high levels of unemployment, poverty, crime, substance abuse and other social ills related to poverty.  We are passionately committed to building equality and see education as a key to addressing these social ills.

Schools in Philippi are overcrowded, achieving low pass rates and are under-resourced with few extra-curricular activities available to learners. According to the last national census the average household income is R3,200 or less, with most residents holding low-income jobs or unemployed and living on social grants. Each person who is employed supports many who are not. Successful graduates often move away from the area, leaving young people with few positive role models to help them improve their lives. Lack of information, networks, and opportunities trap many in continued poverty and under-productivity.

In SAEP’s 29 years of service to the children and young people in the community of Philippi we have gained a clear understanding of the local context and developed strong relationships with community members and other service organisations. 


1994 Environmental Foundation

SAEP was started in 1994 by Norton Tennille, a US environmental lawyer, who wanted to contribute to the new South Africa through sustainable development, environmental education and advocacy. It was initially known as the Southern Africa Environment Project and registered in USA as a non-profit 501 (c) (3) organisation.  

1998 – 2002: High School Education and Enrichment

In 1998 SAEP started working at Sinethemba High School in the Cape Town township of Philippi, doing environmental education. The students began to ask for academic support in key subjects like biology, mathematics and English as well as other extra-mural activities such as debating and creative writing. SAEP started to provide mentoring, coaching, and extra-curricular activities such as creative writing.​

2003: A Watershed Year

Jane Keen, current SAEP Director, joined SAEP full-time as a volunteer. She took the initiative to constitute a South African organisation and to register it as a non profit organisation called South African Education and Environment Project.Later SAEP was registered as a Public Benefit Organisation (PBO).


In programmes, there were four major developments:



At the end of 2002, as they were finishing matric, two SAEP students, Bulelani Futshane and Luzuko Hina asked SAEP to provide a “gap year” in which they and some of their classmates might improve their English, develop computer skills, and explore career alternatives. In return, they offered to do community service, sharing what they had learnt through SAEP with younger learners at their school. This was the beginning of what became our Bridging Year Programme.



SAEP extended its activities from Sinethemba to two other high schools in Philippi.



Under the leadership of Jane Keen, SAEP began work with10 educare centres to help them improve infrastructure, raise funds, develop financial and administrative skills, and register with the Departments of Social Development and Education.



The Environmental Education Programme gained structure and momentum from a partnership with the Mountain Club of South Africa, which began to lead monthly hikes on Table Mountain for SAEP’s high school students.


2005: Arts Outreach Programme

Arts activities had been part of SAEP’s high school programme since 2000 in the form of poetry workshops. In 2005 the Arts Outreach Programme was formally established as a programme, led by volunteer Charne Lavery.Visual arts, drama, photography and film were added that year, and music and other activities in subsequent years.


2009: Hope Scholars and ADT Teach

The Hope Scholars Programme, was launched as a holistic tutoring and mentoring programme for learners from Grade 9 until Grade 12.

The ADT Teach Programme was started as a three-year computer training programme designed to provide learners in three Philippi high schools with IT skills necessary for the job market and for tertiary studies. This was later expanded to a further 3 high schools in Thembisa near Johannesburg.


2010: Tertiary Support Programme

Support was provided on an ad hoc basis to students once the first Bridging Year graduates were accepted into university. The programme was formalised in 2010 to accommodate the increasing number of tertiary students who needed guidance and support in making this major transition.


2011: Impact Centre

Since 2006 SAEP had intended to create a research and development hub or “think-and-do tank” but lacked funding for it. In 2011 it received a three-year grant from the National Lottery and the Impact Centre was launched. The Centre subsequently been responsible for all monitoring and evaluation of SAEP’s programmes, research, incubation of new programmes, knowledge management and sharing.


2013: Career Connections

SAEP recognised the importance of academic and career counselling early in its programme development and began a formal programme when it co-founded Inkanyezi jointly with its UCT partner organisation TeachOut. In 2013, Kayin Scholtz, SAEP’s social worker with experience and expertise in career counselling, developed this programme which focused on capacity building for high school Life Orientation teachers.


2014: Strategic Planning and Continued Growth

SAEP reviewed the programmes and organisation and embarked on intensive strategic planning looking forward to 2018


2015: Entry into Primary Schools and Development of Bridging Year Programme

The Impact Centre piloted the Siyakhathala Primary Project at Siyazakha Primary School.

The Bridging Year Programme changed its programme design to reach more students. By

partnering with other programmes (Y2K, LEAP & 2nd Chance) which could provide tutoring for matric re-writes, SAEP was able focus more on all the non-academic aspects of preparation for tertiary studies, including soft skills and psycho-social support.


2016: Hope Scholars Expansion

The Hope Scholars Programme grew from 2 to 3 schools, working with learners in Grades 8 and 9 at Intsebenziswano, Zisukhanyo & Sophumelela high schools.


2017: Expansion and Contraction

The ECD programme was contracted by the Department of Social Development to audit and then work towards registration of all ECD centres in Philippi. Overnight the programme expanded from intensive support for a group of 8 centres to responsibility for 137 centres.

In line with the strategic plan SAEP closed the Arts Programme and incorporated arts activities into remaining programmes. Fidelity Security bought out ADT and as there was no further funding for the ADT Teach programme it had to be closed.



SAEP partnered with Rise Against Hunger to provide food parcels to needy beneficiaries in all programmes. The Bridging Year programme grew to take 80 students and partnered with CPUT's 2nd Chance programme providing academic tutoring for learners rewriting matric exams.


2019: South African Education Project

SAEP officially changed its name to the South African Education Project.

The Hope Scholars programme reduced its programme activities to environmental excursions and holiday workshops, and began a partnership with Tshilidzi, a project started by Hope Scholar alumni who began tutoring high school students.


Siyakhathala Primary Project started teacher training workshops at Siyazakha Primary.

The ECD holistic support programme worked with 50 ECD centres in Philippi, in addition to the registration of other centres. The ECD programme was also funded by the Department of Economic Development and Tourism to provide training and support to ECD centres in Philippi to assist them to become sustainable and to create employment.


The SAEP Team consists of a board of directors, paid staff, volunteers, tutors and interns. All of our staff are committed to the SAEP Vision of "a generation of motivated South African youth, equipped with education and life skills to maximise their potential and contribute to society."







SAEP (USA) is dedicated to supporting work in an environment where poverty is unacceptably high and education levels are worryingly low. SAEP (SA) works mainly in Philippi, one of the largest black townships in Cape Town. SAEP (USA) is a separate legal entity that shares SAEP (SA)’s educational goals. Contributions are tax-deductible to the extent provided by law under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.



SAEP (SA) is registered as a non-profit organisation in SA (028-310) and as a public benefit organisation (PBO 930010069). This enables us to issue tax certificates in terms of Section 18A of the South African Income Tax Act to all South African donors.

NPO Certificate

B-BBEE Certificate


SAEP (USA) is a non-profit organisation registered in the USA. It was initially the governing body for SAEP when it started in 1994. Today it operates as a funder and supporter of SAEP (SA). It is an independent legal entity constituted within the USA. Contributions to SAEP (USA) are tax-deductible to the extent provided by law under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.


bottom of page