A Book Handover at Ukhanyo Primary School

As part of the recent Mandela Day activities two friends of Masicorp’s Sophie Billington, Sean and Tracey Fraser, contacted all their friends and asked them if they would be prepared to donate money to purchase tables and chairs for the crèches in Masiphumelele. Sean is an editor and Tracey a graphic designer who illustrates and prepares the layout of books. Simon and Tracey also contacted the publishing houses that they work with and asked them for help.

The results were spectacular as they managed to raise R13,738 from 20 generous supporters and contributors. As a result, Masicorp were able to hand over 33 tables and 132 chairs to five crèches in Masiphumelele, as well as reading books (courtesy Pearson Education SA), reams of paper (fresh, clean and white – a real treat for kids who only ever get to draw on scrap paper), crayons, HB pencils, sharpeners and scissors: the things many other children take for granted at school but are sadly often in short supply in Masiphumelele.

Last Thursday was the handover day for the new books in the library at Ukhanyo Primary School. About 200 brand new isiXkhosa books for early readers were handed over to the obvious delight of the youngsters.

ukhanyo book handoverMany books donated in areas such as Masiphumelele are not in the Children’s home language. Although proficiency in English is crucial in later schooling at the early learner stage it is important to encourage children to read as early as possible and therefore books in their home language are a key starting point. This can be seen from the young reader in the top right of our photo montage with her isiXkhosa copy of “Indlela ende eya kuTata”  (A Long Way to Baba), which uses a family outing to explain mathematics through distance and time.

Sean and Tracey commented:

Following our experience with the Masiphumelele crèches in July, we discovered that access to books among primary school learners – in other words, new and young readers – was extremely limited, and even more so when it comes to books in the home languages. So, with the generous support of local publishers, most notably Cambridge University Press Africa, we were able to source a wonderful supply of books and early-reading developmental aids for kids who progress from those crèches to Big School in Masiphumelele. Thank you to Cambridge University Press – and happy reading, kids!

A New Mother & Toddler Group for Masiphumelele

Yesterday saw the start of a new Masicorp initiative – a mother & toddler group held in Masiphumelele library. It was another cold winter day where the rain even turned into hail at one point, so a warm and safe place to meet and play was welcomed by everyone.

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Parent & toddler groups are a lifeline for parents and provide a great opportunity to mingle with other like-minded mums with children of a similar age to their own. Aside from the social benefits, they also offer a change of scenery for their child, providing ample opportunities for preschool learning, to play with new toys, enjoy new sounds and make new friends.

From observation and studies in the crèches in Masiphumelele it has become apparent that most of the children are not exposed to toys and structured learning at home and that many of the parents have no experience of this themselves. It is hoped that this group will not only encourage mothers to play with and teach their children at home but also help them to see how important the early years of a child’s life are as regards learning.

The group is free and refreshments are provided for everyone. It is operated by a combination of Masicorp volunteers and Xhosa and Shona speaking assistants from the community who are paid for their time. The group is open to all mothers with children under five and we hope to grow it to around 30 children. The inclement weather kept a few people away yesterday but we hope those that braved the stormy conditions will spread the word.

There are a collection of toys and dolls available but also children will be encouraged to undertake some craft work. The mothers are all welcome and encouraged to join in and every session will end with a group song. Here we see just one of the happy faces that can recommend the experience to their friends.

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Work Begins at the Home of Love

This was a big week for the Ekhaya Lothando pre-school in Masiphumelele as work began on their new building. Known locally as the Home of Love the pre-school provides the first educational experience for 34 local children. Unfortunately the school currently does not meet the required standards for registration with the DSD [Department of Social Development]. Compliance with DSD standards would ensure the provision of a government subsidy for each child and secure the pre-school’s future.

Step forward the Friends of Africa Child Education (FACE) from the UK who have raised an incredible £30,000, in a little more than a year to refurbish the building. Classroom facilities will be expanded and crucially a functional toilet block will be provided. This is one of the core requirements of the DSD. After numerous fundraising activities, which have been well documented in blogs on these pages the work has finally begun.

Here we see Masicorp’s Colin Blaikie discussing the new build plans with local builder Percy Kindo on Monday morning – apologies about the sun glare from the low sun of a winter morning in the Cape.

colinSadly that low sun was replaced by two days of heavy rain but that is to be expected at this time of year. Undeterred by the wet ground conditions, Colin and Percy have organised their team to start the first task of dismantling an existing room, which will then be rebuilt as the schools toilet block. For now the children are attending a temporary pre-school at the Maranatha Family Church – literally – right across the street from their Home of Love.

Here is the state of play on Thursday morning. Not much too look at right now but with the project scheduled to take four months hopefully this will start to look very different soon.

20130808_130357Check back here from time to time as we keep you updated on progress.

English Literacy – Prize Giving Day for Masiphumelele Students

There were some excited faces among the Masiphumelele students that attend Fish Hoek Primary on Monday. It was prize giving day for the students that attend “English…Please” – part of the school’s academic support program for students whose first language is not English. The program is a MASICORP initiative that provides specialised English tuition for these children and is led by Milli Firth at Fish Hoek Primary. Milli is a specialist English teacher who gives her time to the program ensuring there is no extra charge for attending.

Most children in Masiphumelele attend the local Ukhanyo primary school where much of the teaching is delivered in a combination of Xhosa and poor quality English. A small number of parents are able to send their children to Fish Hoek Primary a few miles away, which is a fully English medium school. In the long term their educational prospects are massively improved but on arrival they often struggle. Some grade 1 pupils have never spoken English and rarely hear the language at home or in their local community. If it was not for programs such as “English…Please” they would quickly get left behind in class and school would become an unpleasant experience for them to endure.

On Monday morning pupils across all grades could be heard chatting nervously in English. A special mention must go to our guide Princess who met us at reception and later gave an impromptu welcome in front of the whole group – delivered in perfect English. Many of the children won awards based on the improvement in their written and spoken English over the last academic year and for two of the older students the ultimate prize was their acceptance into Fish Hoek High School. We hope that they will become the bursary students of the future.

new oneMany thanks to Milli for delivering the program and to all of Masicorp’s funders for supporting us. Here is Milli with Andise who won the prize for the most improved Grade 1 learner.

Saturday Morning Maths Skills for Masiphumelele Students

It has been unseasonabally warm in the Western Cape this weekend. With temperatures well into the twenties and bright blue skies many locals have headed for the hills and beaches to take advantage of the unusual winter heatwave. Not so at Masiphumele High School where the grade 9 students were queuing up for extra science and maths tuition on Saturday morning.

school-saturday Rob Douglas from Fish Hoek High initiated the successful program, which has been running for a couple of years now with financial assistance from Masicorp. The project involves staff from Masiphumelele High School, and colleagues from the nearby and more affluent Fish Hoek High School. A typical Saturday starts with Masiphumelele staff preparing the room as learners arrive for a 9.30 start. Up to 220 students have turned up as news of the program has spread through the community via letters and SMS’s to parents. Allison Grobelaar from Fish Hoek High is first up to take the students through a science session. Theory and practical demonstrations are part of the class, which has been a new addition to this year’s program.

Mr Rob (Fish Hoek High) and his counterpart Mr Mlandu (Masiphumelele High) lead the main maths session and set the students homework assignments.

teachersThe learners sit in small teams and are given instruction via a large projected image on the wall of the main hall. An interactive computer program has been provided with the assistance of Masicorp and allows the viewing of videos and past examination papers for the students to review.

The learners and staff at Masiphumele High have benefitted enormously from the knowledge and mentoring of staff at Fish Hoek’s excellent high school. The extra tuition for the township students can only help advance their Matric prospects and their willingness to attend is a testament to the quality of education on offer and their positive attitude toward learning. Of course all of this would be impossible if it was not for the time given to the program by the staff at both schools for which we can only give our continued thanks.