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
Sep 24, 2019

New Friends in Foreign Places

Learning facts about Canada
Learning facts about Canada

The Gr 4&5 group and their facilitator, Sandile, took part in a pen pal exchange with children at a school in Canada, which was implemented by our Education Mentor, Kristine Fowles. The exchange enabled children in our After-school Programme to swap letters, artwork and information about their lives and homes with children in South Park Elementary School, Victoria in British Columbia. The ethos of this inner city school is very similar to our ethos at Thanda, where experiential learning is also used to teach children and the importance of the environment and art in everyday life is highlighted, too.

Children in our After-school Programme and children in the Canadian school prepared letters, pictures and videos to share with their international pen pals telling them all about life in their respective communities. To prepare children to write to their pen pals in Canada, Sandile and his group learned about continents and located Canada on the world map. Once they found Canada, they looked at a map of Canada and learned lots of fun facts about the country. They then learned some really interesting facts about Canadian culture. When asked if children enjoyed learning about Canada, Sandile said, "Every year children like to learn about other cultures. Especially cultures they are unaware of. They find it very interesting. They know about countries [but not cultures]."

They also learned about braille because Canadian money has braille on it. Sandile used this opportunity to take his group on a little adventure that really showed them why inclusivity is important. Everyone broke up into pairs. Sandile blindfolded one person and the other person made sure the blindfolded person didn’t fall over. Sandile then made everyone do a trust walk where he gave the blindfolded children instructions on where to walk. He also stopped them from speaking for 30 minutes to explore other ways to communicate, and they even tried to learn some sign language, but that wasn’t quite so easy. Everyone then discussed how it would feel to be blind, deaf or to live with some other disability.

Looking at Canadian wildlife, children in Sandile’s group watched a video about Orcas (Killer Whales) that inhabit the waters around Vancouver Island. They then watched the video Plastic Ocean to learn a little bit about the extent of plastic pollution in the ocean and how it affects the animals and plants living there. They also learned about the Pacific Garbage Patch and efforts to reduce marine plastic pollution. Once they knew a little about the challenges marine life face, children turned their attention to looking at some iconic creatures closer to home. They got to be marine biologists, investigators and critical thinkers when they played Shark Detective. Children were shown a shark jaw and some loose shark teeth, which they had to examine to determine the shark’s species. Everyone carefully handled razor sharp sharks’ teeth and got to compare them with pictures to work out what type of shark they were looking at. They even got to touch and see a real shark’s jaw bone with teeth still attached. Children were asked various questions about the teeth to help them think about how sharks hunt and eat, like ‘why do you think the teeth are the shape they are?’ Everyone cut and decorated their own shark picture and collaborated on a very cool painted shark cut out.

To finish things up with sharks, children played a really fun game where they had to throw bean bags at a shark target to score points and get their gross motor muscles moving. All of the information children learned about sharks is now prepared for sending to their pen pals in Canada so they can learn about sharks too. Canadian children are preparing their letters and artwork about whales for children in Sandile’s class so that they can learn more about whales too.

Learning about sharks and marine pollution
Learning about sharks and marine pollution
Collaborative shark project!
Collaborative shark project!
Everyone played Shark Detective and Shark Target
Everyone played Shark Detective and Shark Target
 
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