A NEW nursery and day care centre has opened aimed at preparing children for the digital revolution before they are barely out of nappies.
Yorkshire businessman Maaz Rahman, who has opened Zizu’s in a North-East town centre, believes it is time for cutting-edge technology to be adopted at pre-school level, a model that could expand across the North.
A different, modern approach to early years education, it is supported by academic studies and aimed at preparing small children for the digital world.
There are still the giant Lego blocks, crayons, sandpits, and modelling clay that you’d expect to find in most nurseries. There’s also a “mud kitchen” and “water wall” in the garden, but Bradford-born Mr Rahman is determined to complement traditional play with high-tech learning apps, tablets, computers and whiteboards.
“I want to create an environment that prepares children for the millennial age from a very young age,” says Mr Rahman, who has opened Zizu’s Day Care and Learning Centre, in the former Craft Centre, overlooking Middlesbrough’s bus station.
The emphasis on digital technology is clear from the moment visitors arrive. Facial-recognition security has been installed in reception so staff and parents can gain access by having their eyes scanned.
“I want parents to come and go as they please but security is obviously paramount. By using facial- recognition security, we can achieve both,” says Mr Rahman.
The opening of Zizu’s is the culmination of a dream which Mr Rahman shared with his wife Saerah, the mother of his two children, Zain, seven, and three-year- old Sophia. Tragically, Saerah died from a chronic lung disease six weeks after giving birth to Sophia.
“We were looking for a business that Saerah could run while being a mum,” says Mr Rahman. “She was passionate about the importance of technology in education and she inspired me to make it a reality.”
Zizu is their little boy’s nickname and it seemed a natural fit when they were considering what to call the business.
Mr Rahman, 37, is originally from Bradford and came to the North-East to study animation at Teesside University, graduating in 2002. He went on to become increasingly involved in “the digital space”, working for technology giant IBM, then becoming global e-business manager for Coats, the world’s leading industrial thread manufacturer. He ended up as global director digital of Interface Inc., the world’s largest manufacturer of carpet tiles, with a £2bn turnover.
He sees Zizu’s as the chance to put the expertise he accumulated into practice in his own business.
He has also invested in software, which enables parents to be given daily updates via mobile phones, tablets or computers on their children’s activities and progress. Another computer system builds profiles of each child so activities can be tailor-made.
He is also passionate about the benefits of “biophilic design” which brings elements of nature into the building.
He hopes the central location will be ideal for parents working in the town centre.
There are also plans for a drop-off service for football fans who need their children looking after while Boro matches are being played.
Rachel Brown, who ran a day care centre at Sunderland High School, which was awarded an “outstanding” rating by Ofsted, has been brought in as manager and Mr Rahman hopes to open Zizu’s nurseries and day care centres in other parts of the North-East.