The Molteno Institute for Languages and Literacy continues to be committed to providing excellent services and is taking bold strides towards ensuring that Africa becomes a literate region. At the core of our work is our commitment to affording all children, regardless of their socio-economic background, an opportunity to access quality early education. It is our funders, valuable staff members, and the communities we work with and for, who make it possible for us to carry out this mission. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic hitting us, some of these efforts have been challenged. The trials brought by COVID-19 are undeniable; families lost their loved ones; and people lost their jobs. Like all other sectors, the education sector was strained.
In South Africa, the Department of Basic Education was forced to shut down schools and has since been making efforts to make up for ‘lost’ time. The curriculum year plan, and the frequency of learners’ school attendance was trimmed, thereby also forcing supporting stakeholders like Molteno to revise their programme intervention strategies. For Molteno’s School Readiness Initiative (SRI) team in Limpopo, although not met without challenges, these changes have provided an opportunity for development and advancement, and the amount of support the Molteno SRI team received from its stakeholders is commendable!
One of the highlights of this year has been the increased parental and community interest and involvement. These have yielded improved partnership and collaboration between all programme stakeholders and has ensured that learners are able to learn, be stimulated and develop during these uncertain times. It is the collaborative effort from all stakeholders involved that the SRI programme has been able to excel and expose schools, learners, and Grade R teachers to quality comprehensive early-child-learning.
The key focus of the SRI programme is on Grade R teacher empowerment, improving stakeholder involvement, and providing comprehensive education and services for Grade R learners which includes- classroom management, improving playground to assist stimulate learner development and learning, nutrition, parent support and literacy. All seven participating circuits have done incredibly well this year and we have decided to shine the light on two circuits- Sekgosese Central and Sekgosese West. Schools in these circuits showed the importance of partnership and collaboration between stakeholders, and just how much more can be achieved when working together. The collaborative effort displayed by parents, teachers, SMTs, learners, community volunteers and Molteno staff at Mamothe, Khunwana, Rathoma, Kgwadi, Shapo and Ramotlhale makes it worth shining the light on them.
Before the SRI was implemented in the schools, like many other schools in poor and rural areas, the schools did not have space for outdoor activities, and they were awaiting the government to supply them with the equipment. Classrooms were not conducive for Grade R learners’ learning and development. Furthermore, the Foundation Phase Head of Departments did not see the value of supporting Grade R learners as they perceive them as children who must just play marbles.
Schools did not have qualified Grade R teachers and assigned the least qualified teachers to teach Grade R classes. Learning was formal instead of learning through play. Parents did not know their roles let alone their involvement in relation to the learning of their grade R learners, and the community did not own the school as such there was no ownership from the side of the parents and the community. All activities were left in the hands of school management teams, with little, to no, involvement or support from parents and the community.
In the past eight months, the SRI team has been able to successfully implement the Food Relief Programme and donate food parcels to Grade R learners and their families. With the help of the parents and key community members, the Molteno trainer assigned to work in the schools in the two circuits was able to develop age-appropriate fantasy, reading, learners and teachers’ resources and very resourceful natural playground for Grade R/early learning. Vegetable food gardens were also started and are currently being maintained by the school gardeners. We also have more parents coming on board and volunteering to support the schools.
Excitingly, as the overall aim of the SRI programme is to have model schools from which other schools can learn, neighbouring schools from the two districts have shown great interest in the programme and have gone to seek support to improve their Grade R environment from the programme trainers.
All these achievements are credited to the leadership of our veteran ECD leader- Ms. Martha Moemi, our champion coach- Busisiwe Ngongoma, and our Retired Foundation Phase Curriculum Advisor Mrs. Machaka, who volunteered to support Busisiwe Nongoma. The six schools they work with, namely Mamothe, Khunwana, Rathoma, Kgwadi, Shapo and Ramotlhale were very cooperative in the development of their children.
We congratulate everyone who took interest in this important initiative and wish them Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year.
Thank you for supporting our vision towards achieving a literate Africa!