I am certain that everyone is so tired of the relentless dissection of the Covid Pandemic, its effect upon the world economy, countries in the first and third world, individuals, and the myriad projections of where and how its’ trajectory will transport all of us to a new normal, an unknown frontier. I will not contribute to the debate suffice to say that the trajectory I have observed within our Team at the Family Literacy Project has been one of the most rewarding and enlightening journeys that I have ever undertaken.
The Team have adapted and worked tirelessly to continue to develop our online approach while actively returning to in person Facilitation as the regulations regarding this have eased. This has been a stretch, but their commitment and creativity in delivering the daily, online sessions for our Community Caregivers and Parents, in isolated communities, has continued to keep reading as an essential and exciting part of their disrupted daily routine. The importance of “reading as a shared and valuable skill” is becoming entrenched in those communities that reached out to us during lockdown – we trust that our contributions will continue to assist by closing the gap that is the result of the “lost years” of Covid closures.
Below are the numbers of Learners reached in 2021:
Number of Learners attending Holiday Reading Programme – 7120 p.a.
Number of Books Borrowed from FLP Community Libraries – 7571p.a.
Number of Toddlers in ROTR Groups – 350
Number of ROTR Groups meeting in “nests” – 15
Number of entire Creches using FLP Community Libraries as part of ROTR Groups – 6
Number of 2-5 YO Learners in creches that utilise FLP Community Libraries – 228
Number of Homes Visited 2x per week – 129
Number 0-5YO in homes Visited – 452
|Reach Out to Read Programme in DOE Pilot Schools
|Learners per grade
|Nest at Home
- Reach Out to Read (ROtR) Resource Packs and Dept of Education (DOE):
Cheryl and the FLP ROtR Team have been working tirelessly to develop Resource Packs for the schools where we have been conducting pilot studies on our Programme to teach mother tongue isiZulu Reading, in a structured and interesting manner.
The packs have been printed, training has been conducted and the schools will be running the programme on the additional days when FLP ROtR Team are not at the school. The Departmentally appointed Teaching Interns will administer and run the programme under the HOD’s supervision. The training of the Interns will commence in the next quarter.
We have seen the learners mastering reading at a much quicker pace and acquiring comprehension skills at the same time. Reading for meaning is possible if one provides structured, active learning, evidence-based teaching using local language books that are interesting and that the Learners truly can relate to.
In addition to the isiZulu First Language Reading teaching, we run a parallel Programme introducing English additional Language. The programme is based on the same evidence-based approach we use for Mother Tongue/First Language ROtR Programme and sees Learners progressing remarkably well.
We have done presentations for the DOE and there is interest in broadening the pilot to include many more schools. We are in the process of negotiating human resource support through the President’s Youth Employment Programme and have approached various funders to assist us to improve reading and comprehension at Rural Schools in the Harry Gwala Municipal Region.
- DigiCampus Pilot:
FLP has submitted a proposal to the DigiCampus Group to use their online school lessons as part of a programme to supplement Teaching and Learning in deep rural areas, using our 6 Community Libraries. The idea is that we will facilitate live streaming of Teaching as a supplement for Gr 11 and Gr 12 Learners initially and allow educators access to Gr R to Gr 12 sessions to assist them to plan their teaching classes.
We have had numerous meetings with their director and KZN Provincial Manager who are fully supportive of our proposal – now we are working on the tech and data sector to get their support.
- Asifunde Sonke ECD Teacher’s Training College:
Last year 12 students graduated from our College with NQF Level 4/5 qualifications. It was rewarding to see how the academic knowledge that was gained during the course, the practical supervision by the Noah’s Ark Team and the resource support provided by Asifunde Sonke, have contributed to growing the Creches and making them professional and instructive learning spaces. Small, isolated Creche Teachers, who battled along on their own with very limited support, now have a war chest full overflowing with ideas, resources and knowledge to back them up! Communities that often felt neglected now proudly support their qualified Educators and happily send their Learners to the Creche, knowing that they are not being deprived of a sound grounding prior to entering formal schooling.
- Community Libraries and School Libraries Project:
Improving the foundational skills of literacy and numeracy, especially ‘reading for meaning,’ is now an apex priority for the Department of Basic Education.
In the Fourth term of school in 2021, members of the Family Literacy Project Team had the privilege of establishing Classroom Libraries and providing training in 24 schools in the Harry Gwala District Municipality. Under the very able guidance of Prof Brahm Fleisch, from WITS University, we were participating in the VVOB//CASME research as to whether Classroom Libraries put more books into children’s hands, and as a result, improved Literacy Rates.
Our role was first to train the educators on how to set up and use the classroom libraries, and secondly to follow up with visits, some of which were assessing the Grade 3 educator’s responses to the library training and assessing the ensuing use of the libraries by teachers and the children.
Many valuable lessons were learned – one of the assessment comments that resonated with us was from an Educator relating how Parents had approached the school to enquire as to when their children could rotate the books that they had borrowed as they devoured them and wanted to change books daily!
I am confident that we are doing extremely significant work, unfortunately, the economic crisis that resulted due to COVID 19 lockdown has placed the Family Literacy Project under intense financial pressure. I am positive and hopeful that we will receive additional funding and that this will allow us to intensify our work thereby deepening the impact of the work we do. We have approached various funders in order to detail our work and appeal to them for support for the various, valuable Reading Projects.
Many of my colleagues that operate NGOs have found themselves having to rationalise or close the projects completely. Family Literacy Project has been blessed being able to continue operating despite the devastation that we’ve seen around us.
I would like to thank our supporters for supporting the Family Literacy Project’s important work. As a project that is 22 Years old, we are officially the oldest Family Literacy Organisation in SA and are continuing to reflect upon our practice and refine what we do as we continue to meet the challenges Education faces in SA.