A Boost for English Literacy in Masiphumelele

Masicorp is involved in several English literacy projects in Masiphumelele, which play a crucial role in promoting educational and business success for children and adults in the community. Children who live near or below the poverty line have much lower average reading scores than their peers. This lack of basic literacy skills is linked with academic failure, substance abuse, teen pregnancy, delinquency, unemployment, low productivity, and welfare dependence. Literacy problems extend into adult life where parents who cannot read tend to have children who struggle with reading, thus perpetuating the cycle of poverty.

We were recently delighted to receive a generous donation of 10,00miser0 Euro to assist the delivery of English literacy project from Misereor, the German Catholic Bishops’ Organisation for Development Cooperation. Misereor have assisted development projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America for over 50 years, but this is the first time they have worked in Masiphumelele. Masicorp will be using the funding to support five key literacy projects:

English…..Please! Now in its 4th year this project supports the children from Masiphumelele that attend school in Fish Hoek. For further details see our previous blog posts HERE.

Homework Club at Masi Library Volunteers provide homework help and workshops for primary school children of Masiphumelele.  Masicorp and the library support this worthwhile initiative.

Wordworks (WW) Literacy Programme This English literacy programme is designed to teach disadvantaged children a second language. Volunteers trained in WW methodology mainly come from the communities where programmes are based and operate out of the community library. Assessments are carried out every 6 months. Masicorp currently partly funds WW in Masiphumelele.

MasiFunde Reading Programme Masicorp set up an English Lab, run successfully and sustainably at Ukhanyo Primary School, where we promoting reading in English. For further details see our previous blog posts HERE.

Adult Literacy Programme Masicorp’s Adult Literacy Programme encourage adults to attend lessons once a week at the Library to improve their English Language Skills.  These lessons are attended by employed as well as unemployed community members.  In addition there are also optional reading sessions, where reading for enjoyment is encouraged.


Many thanks to Misereor for their grant to support these initiatives and we hope to work with them again in the future.

A Successful Year for English Please

As another school year comes to a close there is particularly good news to report from the English Please programme at Fish Hoek Primary school. Masicorp volunteer, Milli Firth is a specialist English teacher who gives her time to tutor the students from Masiphumelele that attend the school. The programme has been very successful as we have reported previously.

The grade 7 group that finished this year was the first group that Milli has taken all the way through their time at Fish Hoek Primary. We met up with the group in the week before school finished to chat about their experiences on the programme and their hopes for the future. The ability to speak English fluently gives the students a massive advantage in life, and this was highlighted by their placement in high school. As early as June, all five of the girls in the group were placed in Fish Hoek High School and are looking forward to the significant step up in learning, with new subjects to master and new friends to make.

Gift is the solitary boy in the class and has an even larger adventure to look forward to following his award of a bursary to attend Bishops All-Boys Independent College School in Cape Town. While the girls will remain living in Masiphumelele, Gift will become a boarder, sharing a room with five other learners. Bishop’s is one of the most prestigious schools in the Western Cape, with a long history of high academic achievement. It will be a huge challenge for him, but it is a fantastic life opportunity that has been made possible by the tutoring he has received in the English Please class.

EP1All of the students were able to talk enthusiastically about their future hopes and conversation turned to their ambitions in life after school. Gift has an interest in the arts and hopes his experience at Bishops will enable him to work in drama. The girls were hoping that Fish Hoek High will help prepare them for careers in the travel industry, the legal system or social work. Or in one case the opportunity to be on TV – doing absolutely anything – as long as it is on TV.

Well done to all of the students and to teacher Milli. We wish them all well in their future studies and will be sure to check in again to see how they are progressing.

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!

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.

‘English Please’ – 2012 report

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).”
Engliah Please - Class of 2012

The ‘English Please’ programme

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.English Please - Class of 2012

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.