A Book Donation at the English Hub

We recently reported on the makeover at the English Hub in Ukhanyo Primary School.

The English Hub has now received an fantastic donation from Neil van Blerk of Time Out Creations. He and his team dropped off eleven boxes of brand new, plastic covered children’s books.


This means that from next term the Hub will be able to start a library system where learners can borrow books and take them home to read. Here is Ukhanyo Primary school principal, Michael Tyhali, and Grade 3 learners enjoying the new reading materials.


Thank you to Neil and his family for their incredibly generous gift. These books will be much loved and much used!

The English Hub at Ukhanyo Primary School

jcRegular readers of our blog will be aware of our English Lab Programme, which ran for five successful years at Ukhanyo Primary School. The programme was led by Jan O’Connor, with the help of many volunteers and school staff. We were desperately sad to say goodbye to Jan as she moved on to a new project in Jeffreys Bay just before Christmas, but that did not mean the end of our work in the English Lab.

The project is a teacher-centred, skills-transfer programme, which focused on the teaching staff at the school and how they can most effectively teach the learners English as a First Additional Language. We continue to provide the hub with activities for teachers and students to engage with. This now takes place in a warm, light, and spacious setting, thanks to a substantial refurbishment. We thank Neil and his skilful team at Time Out Creations who have done a wonderful job revamping the space and we are also very happy with our brand new curtains from A.C.G. Manufacturers. In addition the lab also has a new flooring and AV system.

ksWe also have a new team in place to continue the work that Jan and her team began. We now welcome Katherine Smith and her classroom assistant Dolly. Katherine and Dolly have started the year by focusing on developing relationships with the Grade 3 teachers and supporting them in teaching English. They are also developing learning materials and resources to use in the new English Hub, along with turning the space into a fun and engaging, print-rich language centre.

Initially, mornings are focused on providing support for the Grade 3 teachers who have consistently demonstrated enthusiasm and a willingness to learn. In time, the Hub will offer support to the teachers of other grades as well as supporting the long running MasiFunde reading project. This programme currently focuses on supporting 140 Grade 4 learners. Jane Futter and her team of volunteers work with small groups of struggling readers to improve their reading skills and thereby building their confidence.

In addition, in the second term the Hub will be open on specified days from the end of the school day until 16:00 for learners to participate in reading activities, art, music etc. This “After school” programme, will be facilitated by Dolly and will initially be open to eager Grade 5s and interested teachers.

At the time of writing we are just waiting for the new furniture to arrive, but as you can see this has not stopped the eager learners from getting involved. Much of the teaching equipment seen here has been provided thanks to our ongoing relationship with Cape Town based tour operator Absolut Tours through the Pack With A Purpose programme. In addition we also received a generous donation from UK sponsors for books and teaching materials in memory of a wife and mother.

Our thanks to everyone who has helped us to continue providing this support to Ukhanyo School – from our teaching volunteers to the tradesmen who have renovated the facility and of course the many generous donors that have made this project possible.

Masicorp AGM 2014

The Masicorp Annual General Meeting was held at the English Lab in Ukhanyo Primary School yesterday. Thank you to everyone that attended.

For those who were unable to attend we are pleased to present the slide show given by Deputy CEO Milli Firth. Click on the individual slides below to see them in more detail.

If you would like to receive an electronic copy of any of the documents mentioned in the slideshow, or the full minutes from the meeting, please contact us via the mail form HERE.

Masicorp Volunteer Training

Masicorp volunteers spend much of their time assisting children in the classroom; however, last Friday it was the Masicorp volunteers who went back to class themselves. Together with some of the staff from Ukhanyo Primary school around fifteen volunteers spent the afternoon in the school’s English Lab. The session was part of Masicorp’s volunteer training programme and had a particular focus on child protection. Many volunteers join organisations like Masicorp full of enthusiasm and excited to be able to help. Despite the excellent professional skills that volunteers bring to the organisation not all are prepared for the realities of working with township families and sessions like this are essential for both volunteers and their beneficiaries in the community.

pic1-upsideThe training was supported by the attendance of senior staff from the school and in particular from Dennis Vusile, Masiphumelele’s social welfare officer, who gave the opening address. While volunteers want to spend as much of their time helping children with their education it is also important to be aware of the social issues that may prevent effective learning. Dennis gave an excellent overview of the difficult situation facing many children is a highly densely populated community like Masiphumelele, where poverty is a daily fact of life. Economic and social circumstances dictate that sadly some children will suffer neglect or abuse and it is likely that volunteers will experience children in this situation at some stage.

The session continued under the guidance of experienced Masicorp volunteer Lisa Pederson, who shared her past teaching experience and work with disadvantaged children. Through a series of paper exercises volunteers became familiar with Masicorp’s own code of conduct for working with children – previously established by both volunteers and beneficiaries of Masicorp’s work in the community. It was then onto a series of role playing exercises to test out the theory.

During the role play it was quite a hard task to get into the mind of a young child suffering physical abuse in their home environment. Of course it is also a hard task to be the responsible adult that an affected child trusts enough to open up to. As Lisa advised everyone on a number of occasions, for a child to make that disclosure is one of the bravest things they will ever do. Whatever happens next the memories of that moment of finally telling a trusted adult will stay with that person for the rest of their lives. How to react appropriately and the responsibility of how to use the information was the day’s key outcome for the volunteers.

It was not an easy afternoon and the subject matter was distressing at times. It is however crucially important to for us all to be aware of these issues and be ready to act if needed. Everybody admitted at the start of the session that there had been at least one moment in their lives when they let something pass that they later wished they had acted on. When it comes to the children that Masicorp are entrusted to work with, this is something that the day’s training should prevent from happening during volunteer work.

pic2-upsideFinally we must also thank the staff of Nonny’s bakery in Masiphumelele. The bakery was established with assistance from Masicorp and provided everyone with the delicious cakes that ended the session in style.

Phamela Ndyalvane – a stunning success story

Earlier this year we reported on Masicorp’s English Lab project. Led by an American volunteer Jan O’Connor, the project improves the English skills of the teachers at Ukhanyo Primary School who will go on to teach English to pupils as they move away from learning in isiXhosa. During her time working on the project in Masiphumelele library it seems that Jan was also noticed by three primary school pupils.

girls2Phamela Ndyalvane, Esethu Mahlumba and Alive Somaguda (left to right on the photograph) all noticed Jan was an English speaker and asked her for guidance on suitable books that they could read to improve their own English skills. The end result was an ‘informal’ book club where Jan introduced the girls to the delights of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlotte’s Web and the Secret Garden. The books were a hit and all three of the girls rapidly advanced their English language skills.

A little later in the academic year the girls approached Jan with details of a scholarship they had been made aware of via a flyer in the library. The scheme run by the Alan Orbis Gray Foundation provided funding for prospective high school students from economically challenged areas of South Africa. With the assistance of Jan the girls applied and sat for the scheme’s initial examination, together with 1,500 other students from across the country.

Phamela and 200 other applicants passed the examination and were invited to a formal interview where the field was whittled down to a final 50 pupils. All were required to attend a weekend long leadership camp at a Cape Town hotel. For Phamela this was her very first visit to a hotel and her first ever restaurant meal. Despite the daunting circumstances she was finally advised that she was to be accepted for a scholarship. She is now the recipient of a fully funded five year scholarship to St. Cyprian’s School – one of the oldest and most prestigious private schools in Cape Town. Situated on the slopes of Table Mountain the school is a completely different world for Phamela from her surroundings in Masiphumelele.

Phamela was thrilled – and so of course was Jan. Her informal book club had come a long way. However, there is a sad side to the story as well. Disappointed that her two friends had not received the scholarship and would not be able to join her, Phamela initially did not tell anyone of her success.

Fortunately that is not the end of the girl’s story. Check back here in a few days’ time for a follow up on Esethu and Alive and their continuing high school education.

Ukhanyo School’s ‘English Lab’

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.

Teaching in the 'Englsh Lab'