November Update – Family Literacy Project

This is my first report as director of the “new look” Family Literacy Project.  It has been a very busy time of year for FLP as well as Vukuzakhe.  That being said, I relish the challenge and do believe that with the Board’s guidance and support, I will be adequately equipped to take FLP ahead with vigour.  Lynn, in her capacity on the Advisory Committee of the Family Literacy Project Board, has been an invaluable source of support and inspiration since I joined FLP and I look forward to working with her from her new home in Cape Town.

The staff complement at FLP has grown somewhat since my arrival.  The Vukuzakhe Project Staff members, Xolani Mofokeng and Nompumelelo Mbokazi joint the team in their capacity as Vukuzakhe coordinators.  Nompumelelo, our part time coordinator, has worked with FLP in the past as a partner Family Literacy Facilitator and has since progressed into working as an Educator in Grade 1 at Goxhill Farm School in Himeville.  She is employed by Vukuzakhe as the coordinator of our Foundation Phase Youth Programme and currently runs reading and psychosocial support groups at Goxhill School and in the Himeville Low Income Housing development.  Xolani is our youth coordinator and works with youth from grade 4 to 12 in the areas of sport, drama, reading clubs and psychosocial support.  We currently have 4 boys and girls soccer teams, 2 drama, reading and psychosocial support groups in 4 areas in Kwasani.  Our Family Literacy Group, in Underberg, is run 2 evenings a week by the facilitators’ Nonceto Sondezi and Sizeni Duma.  Magaya Khumalo conducts computer training for this group once a week, as well as the Clouds of Hope Orphanage for the caregivers there.  Zinhle Mbanjwa provides support for our bursary students at Underberg School and works in the mastery unit with additional language learners and kids with cognitive challenges in order to improve their reading skills. In addition to the Vukuzakhe staff, Megan Moll, the intern language specialist and Robin Marshall, our financial administrator, have also joined our team.

Promoting reading, writing and more

With the inclusion of Vukuzakhe Projects, we currently facilitate 49 adult, teen, young girls and children’s literacy and psycho social support groups in Impendle, KwaSani, Ingwe and Umzimkulu municipalities.  In addition we have 3 youth, soccer groups, one of which is a teen girls’ team.

In 2013, the Nal’ibali groups expanded to include all of the child to child groups in the programme.  There are currently 21 Nal’ibali reading groups that meet 2x per week and work on units written by Phumy Zikode, that are based upon the Nal’ibali supplements.

In order to encourage reading throughout the year, we run the road to reading map campaign for foundation phase children. Every year we notice that the number of books read is increasing, and the most number of books read also increases. Thus far, in 2013, 3738 books have been read by 402 readers. A grade 3 learner, read 54 books this year, which is 4 more books than last year’s best! We gave her a special prize to recognize her effort. A total of 11785 books were borrowed during this period from the libraries and box libraries.  Our literacy month celebrations are now a regular feature on our calendar. During September 2013, we celebrated literacy month by encouraging adults and young girls to read books to their kids and siblings. 105 adults each read 10 books to their children at homes.  In 2012 we saw that children love being read to by their older siblings thus we encouraged 43 young girls read books to their siblings. In total, 1480 were read. We place great emphasis upon this intergenerational learning and believe that young children are greatly influenced by their older siblings in order to promote reading as a shared pleasure.

Below are updates on work that we are currently engaged in:

Khulisa Abantwana

As we approach the final stages of the DG Murray Trust-funded Community Work Programme initiative, which is training 175 home visitors to reach 0-5 year olds in their homes, we are working on an M&E model that will be used not only in this programme, but right through all of the work that we do at FLP. As part of our M&E, Lynn Stefano, Jill Frow, Claire Kerry and I have work shopped something that will ensure that we constantly monitor and evaluate the quality of all of the programmes FLP offer.  This will be supported by the new DVD we have developed which outlines the many different steps and activities that visitors need to cover in a home visit, as well as to show coordinators how to provide support and monitor the work of the home visitors to ensure children receive quality services through the programme.  Jill Frow will be guiding the coordinators to greater levels of confidence with this during 2014 and will oversee this aspect of our work.  The plan is to meet with the Coordinators every 2 months for these purposes, in addition to her monthly meeting with the FLP facilitators.  Our 4 full time coordinators will visit sites monthly, to conduct M&E activities.

Our home visiting programme continues to reach the most vulnerable families. In 2012, we identified the need for more mentoring of the home visitors. Thus one of our main strategies for 2013 has been to provide increased support for Home visitors, Facilitators and Coordinators in this area.  The Khulisa Abantwana manuals have proved to be an invaluable tool for all concerned.  These assist the Home Visitor to plan lessons based upon reflection of previous success or shortcomings of her Home Visit.  This is done in consultation with the caregivers in the home visited.  In addition to this, the Facilitator will accompany the Home Visitor to homes and will evaluate their sessions using the Khulisa Manual.  I have been extremely impressed with the quality and pedagogical depth of the Home Visits I have attended thus far.  It has impressed upon me the stellar value of this programme in ensuring a broader preparation for formal education, for the children visited.

Demonstration Gardens

Our demonstration gardens are complete at all of the FLP sites as well as at the Resource Centre.  The majority of sites opted for the key-hole gardens with some of them even getting local tractor owners to transport stones for them in order to create the gardens.  2 sites preferred the door garden due to a shortage of stones in their areas.  Butternut, pumpkin, cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, onions and spinach seedlings have been planted in all of the gardens, including the resource centre garden.

The groups are very excited about this new activity that will link to the nutrition aspect of the Khulisa Abantwana home visiting programme. Our plan is to develop new, more comprehensive materials for the programme next year on the subject of nutrition, with the aim of increasing the variety of fresh vegetables that young children consume.

It has been very encouraging to hear of the following at our sites about the gardens:

Nomuvula, the facilitator at Nkumba, reported that during the construction of the keyhole garden, some members of the community joined the learners to help with the project after hearing about the event.

Thola, a facilitator at Come and See, mentioned that a male joined the learners at Xosheyakhe to dig the door size garden, as well as plant seedlings.  After the construction of the garden things changed because even non- members of the group were keen to protect the garden from animals.

Zimbili, a coordinator at FLP, mentioned that after the introduction of the keyhole garden concept, the learners were very enthusiastic about setting up their gardens in the same way.

Florence, a coordinator at FLP, has adopted the concept of keyhole garden and has constructed her own garden at her home.

The Family Literacy Network

The Network groups meet once a week to do their income generating activities and once a month for savings clubs. These networks groups are visited once a month by the Network Coordinator, who trains them to do home visits for babies and toddlers using Khulisa Abantwana materials that were funded by the Jim Joel Fund. These materials, include two DVD’s.  The first DVD showing how to interact with babies during home visits, and the second, brand new DVD demonstrating a model home visiting session.

Beneficiaries in 2013:

  • Adults in literacy groups: 96
  • Adults in network groups: 119
  • Adults in savings groups: 145
  • Child-to-child group members: 371
  • Young girls (9-11 years): 86
  • Teens: 85
  • Children (0-5 years) in homes visited: 407
  • Homes visited: 306
  • Children (0-18 years) in adult member’s homes: 512
  • Home visitors: 178

Libraries

The libraries and their resources continue to be well cared for, the facilities are open and welcoming to the communities they serve.  Now that all of the playgrounds have been built and fences erected, everyone feels even more proud of this communal facility. Many children continue to visit the library where our Library Assistants and Facilitators encourage them to divide their time outdoors on the jungle gyms and indoors listening engaging in the planned activities such as reading and listening to stories, playing games and building puzzles.

Up to the end of September 8269 books have been borrowed from the community and box libraries.

Drama

Xolani Mofokeng currently runs 2 drama groups in Underberg and Himeville Low Income housing developments.  The 35+ preteen and teens in these groups meet twice weekly and develop and perform skits and dramas written and produced by themselves, reflecting the issues that they face in the community, school and home.  We have found that this safe interaction between members of the opposite sex has allowed much debate around issues of sexuality, discrimination and roles each gender should be playing in communities in order for them to be stable and supportive.  The groups perform at community events as well as at local schools when invited to do so.

Songololo Psycho Social Support Groups

4 of our facilitators run counselling groups for children in 4 schools and the community in the KwaSani municipal area.  The programme is based upon the Dlalanathi programme and is run over 8 weeks with a maximum of 8-10 children per group.  Up to the end of November 2013, 48 children have benefitted from this 8 week support programme.  In order to provide ongoing support for severely traumatised children, we have provided counselling for individuals.

School Support Programme

Nompies Mbokazi, Zinhle Mbanjwa and Sbongile Ngubo continue to provide much support to the children in the respective Schools where they are working.  Nompies, as a Grade 1 Educator at Goxhill farm School bases all of her “curricular CAPS work” upon the emphasis of developing sound reading skills.  Her box library and displays have been an inspiration to other staff members to the point of asking her to assist them to get their classrooms looking like hers.  New playground equipment is being built by us at the School.  The Generation Joy Foundation has kindly supported the construction of 2 playgrounds at the2 of the Farm Schools we work at.  Zinhle continues to work in the Underberg School Mastery Unit, where she supports reading and writing with additional language learners.  In addition, she provides Psycho Social Support for them in the Hostel where she resides and ensures that they receive all of the support necessary to keep them healthy and happy.  Sbongile is now a formally employed DOE member but will however continue to work closely with us as we support the Grade R class at Reichenau School where she is based.

Khululeka knowledge exchange visit

On the 9’Th of October, our 2013 partnership with Khululeka drew to a close with an extremely valuable knowledge exchange visit to Underberg.  The Khululeka Ward Counsellor, Manager, Coordinators and Facilitators were all hosted at the FLP Resource Centre and visited many of our sites in order to observe the FLP team in action.  The comments I have received have been very favourable with emphasis being placed upon the great value of actually being present with FLP Facilitators and being able to observe their practice. Khululeka spent many hours in the evenings and early mornings, at the FLP Resource Centre, work shopping their observations and how they plan to implement what they saw.

The African Storybook Project

The African Storybook Project (ASP) has created great excitement at FLP.  We have almost finalised our agreement with the ASP team, based at SAIDE. This project aims to make books accessible through the internet, and to enable people to re-version books and translate these into their own languages. They also aim to gather local stories that can be shared through the internet. The Nododeni and Mpumlwane libraries will be equipped with appropriate technology to participate in the various activities.  Zimbili Dlamini, our Coordinator from this area, and Phumy Zikode our Library Coordinator, will run this programme.  Members of our team who are involved will receive training from ASP. This is a very new development for FLP as we venture into using new technologies for the first time in our very rural sites.

Soccer Clubs

Our boys and girls teen soccer clubs have had a very successful year with many of them competing in finals at local community, as well as at inter-municipality tournaments.  The 79 boys and girls train twice weekly and play matches on weekends, weather permitting.  This initiative, requested by the youth in Underberg and Himeville, has been a vehicle that has provided safer, structured activities for the teens where no other programmes existed.

Peace Clubs

Bullying, sexual abuse, gender discrimination or other forms of human rights violations are very prevalent in our communities and schools.  The FLP team is excited to be undergoing Peace Club training in January 2014.  We plan to use the Peace Club curriculum as an additional activity with all of our children’s groups, to provide our community and students with the skills and ability to deal with these realities.

We hope that through these sessions, individual children will develop skills that allow them to peacefully address and prevent conflict in their schools, homes and communities.

The group’s aim is to give students a safe place to discuss issues in their schools and work, to constructively effect change, thereby empowering participants in order to improve relationships inherent in conflicts that affect young people, educators, parents and society.

The following units will be included in our groups:

  • An Introduction
  • Section one: Conflict (14 lessons)
  • Section two: Violence (9 lessons)
  • Section three: Gender-based conflict (13 lessons)
  • Section four: Journey to Reconciliation (12 lessons)
  • Section 5: Trauma Awareness

Computer Training

We have been very privileged to be able to build upon the FLP Director and Coordinator’s computer skills by providing computer training with Beth Horner.  She came up to Underberg and ran 5 sessions ranging from Word and XL Beginners and Intermediate courses.  This has been invaluable as we have already noticed a great improvement in skills where reporting and team planning is concerned.  We are confident that this will provide a firm platform for the success of the ASP project which relies heavily upon the Coordinator’s prowess in this area.

Position charters

As part of our staff development programme, Jill Frow, our Coordinators and I attended a 2 day training to design a position charter for each of our areas of responsibility.  We believe that this will be an invaluable tool to develop reflective thinking in all of us in terms of our practice, thus shifting from what we should be doing to what we should be achieving in our work.  We believe that this process will assist to eliminate ambiguity around expectations, priorities, outputs and standards of excellence by sharpening the focus of the work done.  Ultimately, through constant review, we would like to get to a point where all of the FLP Team members, measure and manage their own performance and make required changes in order for them to be able to deliver optimally.  Jill will be work shopping the FLP team in developing the same when we start up in January 2014.

Visitors

  • Giuliana Bland, Jim Joel Fund
  • Angela Biden, DG Murray Trust
  • Sheila Drew and Rebecca Pursell, SAIDE and African Storybook Project

Awards

FLP received an award from Shoprite Checkers for excellence as an NGO and received a donation with which we purchased Fundza Books for our libraries and stationery.

Along with Thembalethu, we were very happy to be included in the Excellence in Expanded Public Works Programme National Award for the Khulisa Abantwana Home Visiting Programme.  The staff involved in the programme must be congratulated for their brilliant delivery and monitoring of this partnership.

Noah’s Ark Educator, Mrs Felicity Champkins received an award as Runner Up in the ABSA ECD Practioner of the year in KZN.