A Visit to English Please!

Every week Masicorp volunteer Milli Firth gives her time to help the children from Masiphumelele that are studying at Fish Hoek Primary School improve their English language skills, through the  “English…Please” program. Only a small number of Masiphumelele parents are able to send their children to Fish Hoek Primary School, which is a fully English medium school with excellent educational standards. 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. Milli’s help is crucial for them to integrate into their new school.

This week the class received a visit from Masicorp founders John and Carol Thompson, together with Jane Philippi from the USA funding team. The group are currently staying in South Africa and are taking the opportunity to visit some of Masicorp’s programs. The importance of “English…Please” was immediately apparent when they met three grade 6 learners, Siya, Sibuseto and Mihle, who explained their frustration at arriving at a school where they were unable to communicate. Initially they struggled to make friends and Mihle was bullied while Sibuseto said he just wanted to cry all the time.

milli and students

Without programs like “English….Please” children from Masiphumelele would quickly fall behind and the benefits of attending such a good school would be lost on them. Today their English is hugely improved as they demonstrated by reading a story to the group. They also demonstrated a simple exercise to show that they could follow instructions in English. It seems a simple thing, but for students who struggle to understand the medium of instruction they often do not even know what their teacher is asking of them.

All of today’s students were able to express themselves well to the visitors as they joined a group discussion about their future hopes. Mihle wants to be a doctor while Sibuseto wants to be a professional footballer. Siya trumped everyone by explaining his aim to become a lawyer, footballer and artist. All of the students intend to continue high school in either Fish Hoek or Simons Town and their confidence and ability in English should see them in with a good chance of succeeding. The program helps them both academically and socially. In South Africa many communities are still effectively separated due to the historic legacy of apartheid, with black and white families living in separate areas and rarely integrating. Milli has noticed the students from “English…Please” are finding it easier to mix and make friends with the predominantly white learners at Fish Hoek Primary School, once they are more able to communicate effectively.

john as a student

As a final touch to a successful morning the tables were turned on John and Jane as they became the students and Mihle instructed them in learning the vowels.  We are pleased to report a healthy pass rate among our visitors!

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