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Partners for Possibility

The Valley Primary A Partnership that keeps on paying off

You know that feeling you get when you just know things will work out well?
That feeling of great pride in your fellow South Africans, in the individuals taking it upon themselves to make a difference?
Well, that is exactly what we felt when we visited The Valley Primary School in Durbanville, Cape Town. Read more

30 November -1, 00:00

The Valley Primary Partnership tackles poverty and literacy

Placing the school at the centre of the community requires an understanding of the community’s needs, assessing the level of intervention required and implementing it. This is what Priscilla August, Principal of The Valley Primary School and her PfP Ansonette van der Merwe, of Capespan, realised as they embarked on their Partnership for Possibility.

The Valley Primary School is situated in a rural area, with learners coming from economically challenged families. Numerous learners are from poor surrounding farm worker communities or the local orphanage.  Parents are so busy earning a living, or have a limited education themselves, that most of the learners’ cognitive development, especially literacy and reading, is diminished due to the lack of exposure to a content rich pre-school environment.
Principal, Priscilla August explains: “If a specific intervention does not take place, in an attempt to decrease the effect of this underdevelopment early in the Foundation Phase, learners will probably suffer the dire consequences of this ‘inherited’ disadvantage throughout their education years.”

The intervention took place as the WordWorks© Programme, a pilot project, with the support of the Capespan Foundation and the assistance of 12 volunteers at the school.

“My PfP, Ansonette van der Merwe, is an extremely resourceful lady and having a teaching and pastoral background serves our school well,” Priscilla says, “she represented our school at the Kenridge Dutch Reform church when they started their community outreach project.”

Twanette Acker, the project co-ordinator of the Literacy Project, has a Master’s degree in Speech Therapy and Audiology. Upon hearing about the PfP initiative she was introduced to the partners and, after months of planning and preparing the volunteers, the WordWorks© Programme was launched.

“The WordWorks© Programme is fully volunteer-based. Twanette wanted an opportunity to run a project where her specific skills and qualifications, as well as her passion for books and reading, could be put to meaningful use to the benefit of a needy community.” Asonette says, “Planning started nearly 9 months ago. It involved canvassing volunteers, informing of all stake holders and creating a framework for the initiative.”  
Most of the volunteers are mothers who are willing to share a number of hours per week with learners at this school, while their own children are attending school elsewhere.  All the volunteers participated in an in depth training session which took place on Friday 8 February 2013.

During the first few weeks the volunteers had to first earn the confidence of the teachers and establish a routine. But even the initial one-on-one attention given to the Grade R and Grade 1 learners had already proved to be beneficial.

“The learners are showing signs of improvement both intellectually and emotionally. They are blossoming under the attention they receive,” Priscilla says, “The volunteers are eager, energetic and very trustworthy. They fetch the Gr.1 learners and work individually with each child.”

According to the Grade 1 teacher some learners have already shown an improvement in their average Literacy Skills Development compared to statistics over the same period of previous years. The learners’ excited participation in activities is noted by the regular bursts of laughter observed during every session.  

Ansonette notes that the volunteers have all confirmed that they at first thought they are ‘giving’ to the community, but have actually received something far greater in return.

“They are experiencing a profound sense of ‘making a difference in children’s lives’ and seeing the appreciation and delight in the children’s eyes which outweighs the initial time and effort committed! The volunteers’ hearts are connected to the greater cause, namely, to improve the quality of education for the learners.”

30 November -1, 00:00


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