Nov 5, 2020

In-community Learning

Neighbourhood ECD_Lego and Counting
Neighbourhood ECD_Lego and Counting

2020 has been a whirlwind of a year, operational plans and budgets which make our heads hurt, and on the flipside, heartwarming stories from the community, demonstrating resilience, hope and growth. All this encouraging us to continue believing, pushing and adapting, ensuring that no community member gets left behind!

 

Since April 2020, Thanda has distributed over 144 tonnes worth of food parcels to homes in the community, easing the burden of loss of income, more mouths to feed in the absence of meals children would usually receive at school or in the Thanda After-school Programme.  In addition to providing food parcels to families, we have been able to continue to provide educational support to children in our ECD and After-School Programmes.

 

We began developing our Learning at Home Programme in March, which replaced our Education and ECD programmes until early September. The programme, Learning at Home, which catered for children in ECD  through to grade five, provided fortnightly education packs to children that allowed them to have a little bit of Thanda fun at home. There have been many benefits of this “in-community” programme, guardians and parents now understand that the point of the fun is to learn. The programme also enabled us to establish stronger bonds with guardians who stepped into the role of stay-at-home teachers for their children.

This was a huge undertaking as many guardians have a limited or negative experience with their own education. But everyone did a phenomenal job and those who struggled asked neighbours to help with activities or received assistance from the Thanda Home Visiting Team weekly, with all safety precautions in place.  Because guardians and children were benefitting from home visits in more ways than we could ever expect, we have since decided to continue the home visits as we evolve into our Thandukwazi Outdoor and Neighbourhood ECD Programmes.

The programme was adapted when the older children returned to school in August. Children continue to receive activity packs bursting with activities like word searches, colouring and puzzles but these packs do not require as much involvement from guardians as the Learning at Home packs did. In the second week of September, 13 Neighbourhood ECD's led by facilitators who live in each of the 13 areas began lessons outdoors. Children are brought to the designated neighbourhood area where the facilitator sets up the ECD classroom for the day to commence a morning of fun learning and seeing their friends again. We are practising social distancing, in as much as it is possible with small children, by using individual Masonite slabs as work areas for each child, by being outside, by sanitizing all toys and resources throughout the day and by erecting tippy-taps at each cluster for frequent handwashing.

Our drivers deliver a meal once a day and collect dishes and containers from the day before to bring them to the community centre for cleaning. On rainy days, we have secured the use of a designated building in each cluster, which has been generously offered for use by a local family who has space to dedicated one room to the ECD classroom.

 

At the end of September, we began our Thandukwazi Outdoor Programme for older children up to grade 3, which replaces our After-School programme for the time being. Thandukwazi Outdoor Programme (TOP) works in the same way as the ECD clusters but, because of school commitments and a much greater number of children, sessions take place twice a week in each location. Facilitators have three separate TOP groups for two days each, every week. They spend mornings at our community centre doing a curriculum handover for the week, preparing samples for art projects and undergoing training – all socially distanced and using PPE of course. We have 29 groups up and running with the last 4 starting next week.

Children love being with their facilitators and are really enjoying learning and doing activities with their friends again. Sindi, who facilitates three groups with children in Gr R-3, loves working directly with children again and is adapting to the new way of doing things. Even though papers get scattered all over the place every time the wind blows and it goes from too hot to too cold very quickly, Sindi says the pros of TOP far outweigh the cons. For instance, with smaller groups, she gets to spend more one on one time with children and is better placed to offer individual help to children who are struggling with learning concepts and activities. She feels that the extra time she can spend supporting children one on one is going to be very beneficial to children’s development which more than makes up for seeing the group only twice a week instead of five times a week as she previously did in our After-school Programme. 

Just like in After-school, children still get a large nutritious meal to ensure their tummies are full and they are able to concentrate on doing activities and developing skills. There are still lots of fun learning activities based around themes and lots and lots of games. Sindi confirms that children really missed being able to play games with friends during lockdown. Therefore, she makes sure to include as many games as possible to make up for all the socializing children didn't to do and to help them burn off some of that pent up energy from months of being cooped up at home. The groups are currently enjoying the theme "Come Back Cat" a book created by Book Dash, at TOP. They are reading the book, creating cats out of toilet rolls, learning about food chains and using the crayon resist art technique to draw their own cats.

As our programmes evolve and adapt to the changing regulations in South Africa, we are excited to continue offering our community support through home visits and learning models where lifelong learning can continue. 

 

Toilet Roll Cats
Toilet Roll Cats
Toilet Roll Cats
Toilet Roll Cats
Crayon Resist Art Cat
Crayon Resist Art Cat
Neighbourhood ECD in Session
Neighbourhood ECD in Session
Jul 10, 2020

Learning at Home During Covid-19

Andiswa with her Learnign at Home Pack & invention
Andiswa with her Learnign at Home Pack & invention

Over the past few months, three out of our four initiatives have been closed, as a result of Covid-19. While we don’t know when our regular programmes can resume, we have continued to try to achieve the overall goals we set, albeit in new ways.  

When Covid-19 hit South Africa, Thanda’s team started with prevention education and providing tippy taps. We then built an online Education Portal and set up a whatsapp/ text system to send educational activity ideas to guardians. 

However, it was in April when we started delivering monthly food parcels to each and every child in our programmes- to date we have distributed 78 652 kilograms of food- that something magical started to happen… 

We met grannies that had just spent their last R20 to buy soup with pension payouts still two weeks away - others that were on their way to a loanshark– and others that were simply lost for a solution. We found that there’s something incredibly connective about global uncertainty coupled with meeting someone at their most vulnerable. While these grannies have more strength than one can quantify and more love for their children than one can imagine, they were hungry and stressed. The food parcels we brought were met with laughter, tears, and relief. As one grandchild, Luyanda expressed, “I was so happy in a way that I pushed a wheelbarrow filled with food parcels over a steep hill without feeling any heaviness. Whereas on other days, the hill becomes too steep especially when traveling to school.”

 

When we delivered these first food parcels, we also handed out every crayon, pair of scissors, paper, and lego block we could find at our Community Centre. The relief from receiving food coupled with the educational resources and daily text messages prompted guardians to start talking… and they talked! They told us how through these difficult times, they had come to realize that Thanda truly cared about their children. And suddenly, instead of the stiff, overwhelmed faces we usually see at monthly guardian workshops at Thanda or quarterly meetings at schools, we saw warm smiles and glimmering eyes of partners who felt truly supported and empowered within their own space. They started to show us what educational activities they had been doing with their children based on the texts sent and they asked questions about the challenges they were facing. Most parents and guardians in our community are not usually involved in their child’s education- they wait for the child to bring a report card home from school, believing that education can only happen within those walls. We realized the pandemic and our response to it had created a seismic shift, and we saw an opportunity…. 

 

So we gathered together our programme developers, long-standing facilitators, and managers to create a new initiative called Learning at Home. It is based on Thanda’s current curriculum, but directed to children at home – and facilitated by their own guardians!

Each week since April, we have visited 800 children at their households, dropping off an Education Pack to enable them to learn. Andiswa and her brother Andile are now taught at home each day by their mom, Zethu. Andiswa and Andile usually attend Sosukwana Primary School and participate in Thanda’s After-school Programme. Zethu explains that lockdown has really changed things in their household “I now spend more time with them (her three children) than before, it’s fun just to be with them for this long, it’s really nice” she says.

Through letters to the guardians at the start of each pack (to explain the role of fun and play in learning) and weekly in-person visits to discuss their questions and challenges, guardians have an increased understanding of the Thanda methodologies, specifically our focus on creativity and play as a learning tool. We are seeing that guardians are now whole-heartedly embracing exploration and play as valid methods of learning. Where they might previously have thought that certain games were a waste of time, a hands-on approach allows them to see and experience the lessons and benefits for themselves.

Zethu elaborates “The kids go to school to learn but the teachers don’t have time to play with them whereas Thanda is able to use play to teach them which makes it easier for the kids to remember things they learn through play. Because they love it, they don’t easily forget it. We are grateful to Thanda for what they’ve done.”

Of the lessons sent through the Learning at Home Programme so far Zethu identifies a few specific ones as being favorites among her children “they enjoyed learning shapes through playing hopscotch - we learned about squares, circles, and triangles. They also learned how to aim. If they missed their target, I would encourage them to try again and show them how it is supposed to be done.”

Getting involved on the child’s level is a sign of an excellent teacher and Zethu is one of many guardians who have embraced this role whole-heartedly with the help of our Learning at Home Programme.

Every day on the ground, we see how new challenges bring the potential for new solutions.

Child reading Book Dash book
Child reading Book Dash book
Family Learning at Home
Family Learning at Home
Food Parcel Preparations at Thanda Community
Food Parcel Preparations at Thanda Community
Grannies receiving food parcels
Grannies receiving food parcels
Granny dancing with joy at food relief
Granny dancing with joy at food relief
Thanda facilitator guiding guardian at delivery
Thanda facilitator guiding guardian at delivery
Tiny Tot Showing off her Learning at Home work
Tiny Tot Showing off her Learning at Home work

Links:

Dec 26, 2019

Supporting children to learn, grow and lead.

Amahle
Amahle

At Thanda, we are fixing the broken education system in South Africa by holistically supporting youth through creative learning, ultimately cultivating empowered, resilient, lifelong learners.

To better understand how our Creative Learning Curriculum is disrupting traditional educational models and supporting children in their ability to learn, grow and lead, we invite you to meet five children of the children in our After-school Programme – Lisakhanya, Amahle, Vuyani, Melokuhle, and Simtholile.  

 

Meet Amahle

Meet Amahle! Through the implementation of our Creative Learning Curriculum, which disrupts traditional education models, we are supporting Amahle and children like her in their ability to learn, grow and lead in their lives and in their communities.  

“I’m Amahle. I am 7 years old. At Thanda, I have learned about different books… I like learning, I even told my family about the book we read about Hoppy, and when I grow up, I want to be a teacher so that I can share my love of learning.”

Nomusa, Amahle’s Grandmother - “Amahle is a very active child, she is very helpful in the house. Since going to Thanda, she has become more disciplined when it comes to her school work, and she has gotten better when it comes to the way she carries herself. She shows zeal for the work she does at Thanda, and even shows zeal for her regular school work.

If someone asked me about the Thanda After-school Programme, I would say take the child to Thanda! As I think about Amhale’s future, I want her to study and succeed. She said she wants to be a teacher and I hope that what she wants for herself comes to fruition.”

 

Meet Lisakhanya 

“My name is Lisakhanya, I am 6 years old,” says Lisakhana, all big smiles, “Every day when I wake up, I’m excited to start my day with a bath and to get ready for school.” As she speaks, Lisakhanya wiggles around in her chair, brimming with the energy of youth. “My favourite thing about Thanda is playing and reading books,” she says, glancing behind her to her where friends are running around and laughing. “I like reading books like Oh No, George, Odd Dog Out, and Spiderman. If I had to choose one book out of these, it would be Spiderman because I like that he saves people!” Lisakhanya looks to her friends again, obviously ready to join in the fun, so we thank her for the chat and she runs off.

Lisakhanya didn’t always love playing and being around other children though. Her current carefree attitude was something she has learned over time, through the partnership between Thanda’s After-school Programme and her guardian. “When I first started facilitating Lisakhanya,” says After-school Facilitator, Noma, “She used to struggle with sharing, but through the ongoing lessons she’s learning at Thanda, she has been changing,” Noma tells us about a time when, following our Creative Learning Programme, the children in the class were making art related to a book they had read. In the early days of After-school, Lisakhanya would have grabbed the crayons for herself. Now, she makes sure there are enough colours to go around! “She waits her turn and helps the other children when they need something,” says Noma, “I think she’s becoming a good example to her peers because when Lisakhanya sees another child doing something wrong, she’s able to intervene or tell me about what’s going on. I think the books we read for them really make a difference in that because you can see she relates to the story.” 

Noma, Lisakhanya’s After-school Facilitator - Thanks to Thanda’s library, Lisakhanya’s learning can continue at home. “I check out books from the Thanda Library so that I can read them at home. Mom or my brother, Mpendulo, sometimes help me read the books.” Thembisile, Lisakhanya’s guardian, also takes an active role in encouraging Lisakhanya’s development. “I’ve seen Lisakhanya’s guardian come to the Guardian Trainings before,” says Noma, “And I believe she implements what she learns there with her children because I’ve had her tell me how much she appreciates the value Thanda is adding to her children’s lives.”

 

Meet Vuyani

“My name is Vuyani. I’m 6 years old. I love everything about Thanda! My favorite book is “Spiderman”. I wish I could help people like he does and be as strong as he is, so when I grow up I want to be a soldier. I love my community because this is where we get our food and water! If I could give back to the community in any way, I would build more houses and water taps. My favourite food to eat from Thanda is rice and chicken!” 

Noma, Vuyani’s After-school Facilitator - “Vuyani is a very bubbly child, he smiles a lot, and he just loves people. He has always been a sweet, very empathetic child. If something bad happens to another child, even if it doesn’t involve him, he will come to tell me or intervene in some way. He sees himself as older than the other children, he has this big brother “I will protect you” attitude. It’s probably because of how much he loves Spiderman.

I think I have special moments with Vuyani every day because he’s always so present; he helps me offload the daily meal from the Thanda car, he helps me hand out art supplies, he even helps me dish up for the children – he’s a very big help! He still struggles with being patient with his work though, he’s always in a rush to finish. If there was a piece of advice I would give Vuyani, it would be for him to continue being the kind and loving person that he is and for him to aim high and keep the right role models for himself because he has the potential to be what he admires the most.”

 

Meet Melokuhle

“My name is Melokuhle and I’m 6 years old! At Thanda, we learn how to read, to colour in and draw, to cut and make masks for our plays, and we get to watch movies! My favourite is drawing. When I grow up, I hope to be a police officer!” 

Nomzamo, Melo’s Guardian - “Melo was born in this community and he grew up here. It’s just him and I living together here, our other family is in Durban. He is very attentive, and if he has gone somewhere, he will come back and tell you exactly what happened. He loves people and other children. Since he started Thanda, I see a change in his attitude because he has become more free and confident. He loves listening and reading books! He asks me to help him with his schoolwork now and he looks forward to reading.

I saw the work that Thanda was doing for other children in the community and the many activities that they have for them. That is why I wanted him to Melo to join Thanda After-school so that he could be a well-rounded and grounded child.

I would like people to know that Thanda helps children. You will find that during the day at school, there are many students in class and there are few teachers. Thanda After-school aids in ensuring that what was learned in class is reinforced. If a child didn’t understand the content in class, Thanda takes the time to help them learn.”

 

Meet Simtholile 

“I am Simtholile. I am 9 years old. I love school and going to Thanda! I enjoy the books we read at Thanda; “Tidy” is my favourite. I like the fact that the book ends with the badger getting help from his friends to put things back to the way they were. I also enjoy interacting with all the children and all the events we have at Thanda! I like that we sing together, and get to watch the other children sing and dance as well. My favourite thing in my life is having friends. When I grow up, I want to be a police officer!” 

Janet, Simtholile After-School Facilitator - “When I first met Simtholile, he wasn’t serious about his school work and he had a tough time communicating with me. He also used to bully the other children; it seems like he had anger stored up inside.

With time, he’s been able to open up and talk about things, and the more he’s done that, the better his attitude has gotten and the more he’s enjoying being around other children. He is now the one who wants to help handout exercises or shares his stationary, and he’s quick to understand instruction and actually volunteer to help the class.

As Simtholile grows, I want to continue to encourage him to be more honest with himself and others about who he is and how he feels, because that will give him peace with his environment. With this peace comes the ability to feel confident in expressing oneself, recognize personal strengths, think independently, and ultimately, flourish.”

 

At Thanda, the children in the Class of 2030 are learning academic skills such as literacy, numeracy, and science while also experiencing interpersonal growth through the development of our five Game-changing Skills: self-esteem, perspective, creativity, critical thinking, and empathy. These skills prepare the children in our community to become leaders capable of creating the changes they want to see in their lives and in their communities. 

All of these stories of change in the children who participate in our Thanda after-School programme and hundreds of others just like this in our Mtwalume community are possible because of the support we receive from you!

We are so close to reaching our 2019 fundraising goal to continue to learn, grow, and lead in 2020! In fact, we are just $1 770 to go! If you’d like to make a tax-deductible donation before the end of the year, visit our Project Page.

 

We hope you enjoy a wonderful festive season filled with much love and happiness!

Love Thanda

Janet, Simtholile After-School Facilitator
Janet, Simtholile After-School Facilitator
Lisakhanya
Lisakhanya
Melokuhle
Melokuhle
Noma, Lisakhanya's After-school Facilitator
Noma, Lisakhanya's After-school Facilitator
Nomusa, Amahle's Grandmother
Nomusa, Amahle's Grandmother
Nomzamo, Melo's Guardian
Nomzamo, Melo's Guardian
Simtholile
Simtholile
Vuyani
Vuyani
 
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