Family Literacy Groups
These groups meet twice a week to discuss a range of issues as well as to improve language and literacy skills. The average length of attendance at the end of 2005 was 3.5 years with some members having attended from the start of the project in 2000. To provide opportunities for the group members to use their literacy skills, the following have been initiated:
Community Notice Boards
These provide an opportunity for group members to display their literacy skills and also share information gained from the topics covered in the sessions. One group member is responsible for organising the notice board and encouraging others to contribute to the displays.
Every family literacy group member is encouraged to write to someone in a neighbouring group. These letters are exchanged when the facilitators meet. Pen friends meet at the end of year event.
This started when group members were asked to write to the FLP. These letters were printed, followed by a few pages with news and then photographs. The newsletter is now professionally laid out. It is very popular as it is filled with news from the different groups.
The FLP supplies a book to each adult to keep a journal with a child. The adults and children choose a picture to paste into the book or draw one, talk about these and the adults write down the conversation in what are called Umzali Nengane (Parent and Child) journals
Box libraries and book clubs
Each group was given a box of books for women to borrow. At first mainly children’s books were borrowed; this was encouraged so that the women could read with their children or at least look at the pictures. At Stepmore, the facilitator soon noticed that the group members were discussing books together. This led to the first book club, something that has spread to every group.
Group members visited their neighbours to see whether they would use a library. The results were overwhelmingly in favour of having a library and, with perfect timing, we were asked by the NGO Biblionef if we would like a container library.
The bright blue container arrived in Stepmore and our first community library was opened in November 2003. Library furniture was provided by the provincial library services, books by Biblionef, Exclusive Books and other donors; group members catalogued the books and set up the library. The library is open to anyone in Stepmore and is run by one of our group members, with support from the facilitator.
Nelly Shezi, the Stepmore facilitator, did some research into the impact of the library, asking: “Why do you want a library?” 93% of the 114 people answered as follows:
58% said they would gain knowledge
17% said it would bring them books to read
9% said it would help them read, or improve their reading
7% said it would help their children
6% said it would develop the area
2% said they liked reading
1% said it would bring them success.
The group members’ desire to spread the message of early literacy gave rise to the home visiting scheme. The women take books with them to read children; they also talk to mothers about their role in their children’s development.
To support the women, Felicity Champkins runs workshops once a term in each site on activities that can be done at home. These workshops are follow on from those run in 2002 and 2003 that focused on story telling, reading books and other games and activities to support the development of early literacy skills.
This programme is an important part of the FLP. Over 200 primary school children meet once a week to read, draw and discuss different topics. These topics often mirror those of the family literacy groups, so links between family members are nurtured. The groups are multi-age with Grades 3 and 4 children helping Grades R, 1 and 2 children. International research confirms our conviction that such a programme builds self-confidence in both the reader and the listeners.
Children from the following primary schools attend these groups:
- Malunga Primary School, Lotheni
- Somangwe Primary School, Stepmore
- Stepmore Primary School, Stepmore
- Reichenau Primary School, Reichenau
- Nomagaga Primary School, Mpumlwane
- Thandoxolo Primary School, Centocow (group discontinued in 2005)
Teenage sexuality groups
These groups are run separately for boys and for girls to discuss issues of sexuality especially as they relate to HIV and Aids.
Health support groups
These began in 2004 as a response by the FLP to the numbers of women caring for orphaned children. Chris Gibson had trained the facilitators in the key messages of the international Integrated Management of Childhood Illnesses project and this information is passed on to others as part of the home visiting scheme.
The FLP has been approached by other NGOs who have provided skills training and materials for members of some of the family literacy groups. Community projects that some FLP groups are managing are a sewing group, a vegetable tunnel and a chicken project.