The children of Masiphumelele are generally not well prepared for learning how to read and write when they start formal schooling; their parents want to help, but often do not know how.
The children’s first school is the township school, where they are taught in their mother tongue, Xhosa, for the first three years. After that, they have to make the switch-over to English. The children who attend schools outside Masiphumelele face the task of learning to read and write in English, their second language, right from the start.
Help is needed! And it comes in the form of a wonderfully effective English literacy and language programme from Wordworks SA – the Early Literacy Programme. This highly effective and established programme helps establish good English language and literacy skills in our youngest students.
At the end of August 2012, in the pouring rain, a group of MASICORP volunteers in collaboration with Breadline Africa and ERM distributed 30 food parcels to some of the poorest families within Masiphumelele. The donation for the food parcels had come from ERM, the Environmental Resources Management, one of the world’s largest sustainability consultancies, based in Westlake. Each food parcel contained enough food to help a family of 4 eat well for at least 2 weeks, if not more and contained fruit, vegetables, dry goods such as maize and samp, as well as tinned produce and some freshly baked goods.
Dr Sophie Billington, our ECD doctor, advised on the content of the food parcels to ensure it was as nutritional as possible, e.g. tinned sardines for high Omega 3 content, and dried fruit for added iron. The food parcels were distributed by a group of MASICORP volunteers and supporters as well as by Breadline Africa and ERM to 3 crèches in Masiphumelele where we know there are families living in very poor conditions. The pouring rain was a stark reminder for all as to how difficult life can be for so many in the township.
Nonny is one of our newest entrepreneurs. She opened Masi’s very first artisan bakery and cafe at the end of 2012. Amongst her many talents: – she makes great cakes!
If you’re visiting the township, drop by!
MASICORP has committed volunteers and resources to improving the quality of education at Masiphumelele’s Ukhanyo Primary School, but one of the biggest hurdles that the school faces is the low level of English literacy and fluency among teachers and students.
To help address this problem, MASICORP opened the ‘English Lab’ at Ukhanyo Primary School in January 2012. The project is led by an American volunteer Jan O’Connor and her able assistant, Zimkhita Kapaayi. Modeled after our successful ‘Science Lab’, the English Lab focuses on providing teachers at Ukhanyo with the skills and resources that they need in order to teach English effectively.
In its initial phase, the project has concentrated on teachers from grades 1-3. The level of participation has been overwhelming. Teachers are embracing the easy-to-implement lesson plans and the opportunity to practice effective teaching strategies in a supportive environment.
Jan had initially hoped to “recruit” a group of 10 teachers willing to put in the time and effort to work on improving their English teaching skills, but within six weeks of the opening, 22 Grade 1-4 teachers were using the English Lab on a weekly basis and teachers of the intermediate grades were clamouring for an opportunity to use the facility.
Set up with generous support from MASICORP donors in the UK, the English Lab provides the resources and materials that teachers need to teach competently in the classroom. In addition, the Lab serves as a place where Ukhanyo educators can share effective teaching strategies and techniques across the curriculum.
Milli Firth reports: “2012 was another great year for the programme, I can honestly say that I have enjoyed every moment of teaching these special children. The pupils have made excellent progress. I am happy to report that they are doing exceptionally well, with many of them achieving the grade average percentage for English Language and higher ⎯ a great achievement for a second language pupil!
We have also had some fun this year. Polly Saul, who runs our P4C Program (Independent Thinking Skills) visited a class and really had their brains working. The children enjoyed the activity: “I know I am clever, because I could answer all of Polly’s questions” says Mihle (Grade 4).”
In town of Fish Hoek, close to Masiphumelele, the primary school has an enviable reputation. It achieves educational standards that would please parents anywhere. The school’s team of motivated teachers works hard to provide their learners (the most common term for ‘pupil’ in SA) with a stimulating and effective primary education. A place at Fish Hoek Primary School would be a prize for any child, but it is especially prized by the children of Masiphumelele.
There is a problem though – the school teaches in English. For Masiphumelele pupils, Xhosa (or another African language) is their first language. If children don’t have a good level of English language and literacy they struggle to keep up in Fish Hoek Primary School.
Attending an English language based school is seen as an advantage. The people of Masiphumelele know the value of good English – they tell us, frequently, that the future prospects of their children, even the most able, can be blighted by poor schooling and poor English
Most of the children come from families where there is considerable economic and social deprivation. Parents have little English themselves and little understanding, or experience, of education in a school like Fish Hoek Primary. It makes it tough for them to give their child the support they need – especially in the first few years of schooling.
This is where the ‘English Please’ programme comes in.
‘English Please’ was set up by Milli Firth and Fish Hoek Primary School over three years ago. It provides the specialised English tuition that Masiphumelele pupils need to able to make a contribution in class. The children gain confidence with the English language and get the literacy skills they need to help them learn.
The ‘English Please’ class of 2012 have done exceptionally well. Many of them are achieving the Grade average percentage for English Language.
Masiphumelele families do not have enough money to fund this additional tuition. Neither the State nor the school can afford to do more.
MASICORP stepped in with funds to make this programme happen – we need your support so it can continue.