In our previous report we shared with you an update on our Thandukwazi Programme for children in Grade R – Grade 3. Today we share an update on some of our programmes for children in Grades 4 - 7.
Siyazazi (meaning “knowing ourselves”) runs on weekends and in the school holidays. It is a full-day programme for children in Grades 4-7 and is held at Thanda's Community Centre, which has ample indoor and outdoor spaces to allow activities to be conducted in small groups. Children attend from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays and receive a nutritious lunch and afternoon snack at each session. For the first half of the day, facilitators lead activities around concepts from Thanda's Creative Learning Curriculum aimed at strengthening children’s educational and social-emotional skills and in the afternoon, children participate in their chosen extracurricular activity (Book Club, Creative Arts Group, or Performing Arts Group).
Between January and December 2022, we facilitated an average of 9 Siyazazi sessions per month.
Our Siyazazi children are also of the age where they can enroll into our Girls Programme or our Boys Programme!
Many boys and girls in our community do not receive assistance or information related to puberty from home, and school simply offers a basic overview. Our Boys and Girls programmes are available to children to help provide them with guidance on matters that are still considered taboo in open conversation within the community. In a safe and confidential environment with positive role models, the participants of the Boys Programme and the Girls Programme are able to navigate their way through a challenging time in their development, with a focus on 'real' self-esteem and mutual respect.
These programmes also take place on weekends and are held at least once a month. In 2022 we held 12 Girls Programme sessions and 15 Boys Programme sessions.
Boys Programme Co-ordinator, Thabiso, tells us that all of the topics, from homosexuality to culture to bullying to gender and many more, have been embraced by the boys and that their captive engagement with the topics has been admirable.
Both the Boys and the Girls Programmes aim to provide children with a sense of belonging within a supportive peer group and encourages children to develop interpersonal skills for relating to each other. This is done through various activities such as sleepovers at Thanda, braais (barbeques), outings and visits with important members of the community etc. but the cultivating of a strong group dynamic, where the children trust and feel at ease with each other (and so feel able to completely open up) is often seen most notably during the weekend long excursions that take place during the course of the year.
We chatted to Thabiso about the Boys Programme trip to Hluleka that took place in the second half of 2022. For this weekend away, the boys travelled together with their facilitators to the Eastern Cape (EC). For some children, this was their first time leaving our region, for most it was their first time travelling outside of Kwa-Zulu Natal province. Showing them the world outside the confines of what they were used to was wonderful and very eye-opening for them. At Hluleka they spent time enjoying the calm beaches together and at night they sat around the bonfire. Thabiso shares “It was fun and the boys learned a lot. There were showers there, made of buckets and taps where you can pour both cold and hot water into the bucket and pull the handle the water falls on you –the boys loved that. They kept on saying “I am going to do this at home.” Even the food and the way that they eat was different to what the boys were used to. For example, they do not cook curry in the EC, and the boys asked “why does this food not have curry?” In EC, if they are cooking beef, you will have your beef and your gravy separate it’s not mixed into a “beef curry” like the boys are used to. We explained to the boys that, in fact, curry is something from another culture, the Indian culture and that some of our grandmothers or great grandmothers worked for Indian people and then adopted the style of cooking. But in the Eastern Cape, the Indian community is much smaller than in KZN so they had not adopted such a way of preparing meals.”
The children also learned a lot about Xhosa culture, as Xhosa is the predominant tribe in the Eastern Cape. The children learned about similarities and difference between the Xhosa culture and their own Zulu culture.
They all slept in a hut together and Thabiso says that the extent to which the bond between the boys grew during this time actually surprised him. “There has always been a thing between people from Mlamula and Foksini (two neighbourhoods within our community). If you’re from Mlamula you do not get along with someone from Foksini and vice versa. It is an old rivalry story and some of the children still carry that. Putting them in one space (the hut), and giving them opportunity to share and participate together, really made their relationship so much better. By day three, they didn’t want to come back home because they had adjusted to each other and the house rules! Since our arrival back I can see the bond has remained strong between them. A bond with each other and also with us, facilitators, since we acted as their parents while we were away.”
Siyazazi (Knowing Ourselves) and the Boys and Girls Programmes are integral to our holistic programming at Thanda. These programmes focus on mastery of skills and mastery of self after the discovery stage that we emphasise with the younger children in our Thandukwazi (Be Curious) Programme.
Thank you for your generosity, which contributes to keeping these programmes in operation. Your kindness is ensuring that children in the severely under-served community of Mtwalume, are being empowered to break the cycle of poverty and to thrive as they grow into compassionate, thoughtful, critical-thinking members of society.
In our last update we shared with you about our wonderful Fun Foundations Programme and the new group that had recently been added to the fold.
In today's update we'd like to share a little about our Thandukwazi Programme and how it helps young children in our community, including one of the wonderful curriculum themes the children have recently explored.
Thandukwazi (meaning “be curious”) caters to children from Grade R to Grade 3. It is an after-school programme held in 32 different neighbourhoods, usually outdoors in a back yard type setting with the use of a household volunteered by the community for use during inclement weather. Programmes are held twice per week for 2 hours or once per week for 4 hours. Children attend on either Tuesdays & Wednesdays from 2-4 p.m., Thursdays & Fridays from 2-4 p.m. or on Saturdays from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. During school holidays, the sessions are much longer. Our locally hired After-school Facilitators, most of whom are youth who grew up in the community, lead these programmes with the assistance of one local volunteer, selected by the community, who receives a stipend. Your funding has contributed to the running of an average of 7 Thandukwazi sessions per month since the beginning of 2022, with an average of 84% attendance across all Thandukwazi groups.
Our curriculum, along with practical skills like numeracy and literacy, teaches children essential socio-emotional skills too. Creativity, critical thinking, empathy, perspective and self-esteem are all important elements of a well-rounded human being and are essential for children to learn in order to become resilient, thriving adults.
One of the most memorable themes explored during the second half of 2022 has been ‘Heroes’.
As part of this theme, children delved into the concept of ‘the hero’s journey’ which is a concept Joseph Campbell (1990) talks about, that emphasises the positive story arc experienced by many heroes in novels – after trials and challenges, the hero emerges stronger and more resilient. The children use this concept to create their own ‘Hero Books’ which sees them create a narrative expression of their own lives through various facilitated exercises. The children (many of whom have already experienced great trauma) are thus led through a healing process, which then helps them recognize that the challenges and trauma many of them have experienced in their lives have actually made them stronger.
As with all our themes, each session for Hero Books had a lesson plan with detailed activities and focus areas and through these sessions. The books created during these sessions now serve as a tangible reminder of the lessons learned throughout the theme.
Some of the ideas, concepts and activities that were explored and unpacked through this theme (and which, ultimately, made up the pages of their own Hero Books) were:
Helping children to gain perspective around their emotions is empowering and encourages both empathy and resilience in them. These are critical for success as an adult and at Thanda, we are constantly building on these concepts to ensure that, as children grow, they feel empowered to create the positive change they wish to see in their lives.
IMPACT – BUILDING CONFIDENCE
Mimi tells us about how participating in Thandukwazi sessions shows in the children’s behaviors “Last year there was a child who was shy. She would participate but not as much as the other children. She was very timid. But now, wow, you would swear that it is a different child. They are so bold and their participation is now very good! There was another child who was also very shy and would even cry when you spoke to them. Now they happily participate.”
Mimi explains that there are materials and training which Thanda provides in order to assist facilitators in helping shy children. “With the shy children, we would use all the material we get from Thanda. I think also just making the children feel seen and validated, boosts their confidence to participate in the group. It makes them feel like what they saying is not wrong. A great tool for this is the Class Agreement. At the beginning of the year, the children all made an agreement that no answer is incorrect and that they would not laugh or make fun of anyone for the answers they give since participating is important and everyone’s input is valuable. We spoke about mutual respect and treating others how you would like to be treated. When children feel respected they feel confident enough to participate. Books, such as Desmond and the Very Mean word help to get this message across too. I constantly refer to that book because it has such a great foundational lesson in respecting others.”
IMPACT – WORKING THROUGH OUR EMOTIONS
Another example of helping children feel seen and validated is with the expressing of their emotions, which, Mimi says, many of them find difficult. “The Colour Monster by Anna Llenas teaches about emotions. It helps us to explain that everyone has feelings and that it is okay. It gives permission to children to cry or be upset if they need to. For example, last week a child was hit by their parent (in an act of corporeal punishment) in the morning. They kept their feelings about this inside all day but when the child came to the group in the afternoon, they broke down. It was also timed with the fact that we were talking about emotions and feelings. So we allowed a space and time for the child to express themselves. The child eventually expressed what was upsetting them and we made the child aware that it’s okay to be upset and that sometimes it can be helpful and healing to share in a safe space. We also have something called ‘the love clap.’ We use this is if a child is not feeling okay. We all give the child a ‘love clap’ to help them feel the love from those around them.” This child, who had felt uncomfortable to share his emotional state with anyone all day was finally able to open up during to his peers during his Thandukwazi session that day. This indicates that the child understands that Thanda is a safe space where he is accepted and able to feel his emotions openly while he is supported through them with love from the micro-community of his group.”
We hope that you have enjoyed reading about our Thandukwazi Programme and how it is helping children in 2022 to grow into resilient, capable and empathetic adults.
Thank you for helping us to ensure that this programme, in conjunction with all of our other Thanda programmes, continues to empower people to create positive change in their own lives.
Our Fun Foundations Programme forms part of our Early Learning Initiative and it was started in order to provide a safe space for children who live in very remote parts of the wards we serve, while guardians work on their farms. The groups now follow a combination of our Thanda ECD curriculum and the Singakwenza curriculum and the children are thriving! We currently have groups on 6 farms (with a seventh, Nanini, currently in the process of transitioning to a fully fledged satellite ECD) with a total of 132 children enrolled.
In today’s report feedback we highlight our newest Fun Foundations group for a closer look….
Situated a twenty-minute drive from Thanda’s Community Centre, this area has not had access to an Early Learning facility or crèche for over 10 years. We sent team member Bongeka to chat to the women who are cooking for, facilitating, assisting and offering up their home to house the Etsheni Fun Foundations.
This is what she had to say about her visit to the new Fun Foundations playgroup!
We drove to Etsheni with Dudu, the Fun Foundations Programme Manager and she eagerly told us all about the group. She explained ‘We were made aware of the need for this playgroup through members of the community. They told us that there is no ECD facility nearby. I think the closest ECD is in eMpucuka if I am not mistaken and this is more than 20kms away. We started 3 May, there were 3 children when we started in the first week. In the second week there were 8. Today we have 11 children, the number slowly growing’. *(As at the end of May 2022 we now have 18 children enrolled with 14 attending regularly).
When we arrived, the small group was outside washing their hands with the assistant volunteer, Zodwa. Reading their body language, it was clear that some of the children were still a little wary. One boy in particular, who we later found out was a new enrolee, was standing at a distance from the rest of the children but, within moments, the volunteer had gathered him in and was asking the children to be his friend.
Zodwa told us “At first it was tricky because the children were still adjusting to the new environment because they were not used being away from their parents. We are also doing our best to make them comfortable and get used to the environment. I can see they are adjusting because they now tell their parents that they want to get ready to come to the playgroup.
We really needed the playgroup in this area… There are children that were sitting at home and not going to crèche because the parents could not afford to take their children to available schools that are so far away because of transport costs.”
Taking in the surroundings, we saw two rondavels. The one is the classroom and the other is for cooking as the children receive two meals each day, maize porridge for breakfast and a warm hearty lunch of rice with a protein and vegetables.
The group’s cook, Thembisile, shared “I work in the kitchen. I cook and I am gradually adjusting to my role. I love cooking. Yes.. I am a master chef, you can ask anyone, they know, Thembi can cook. I wanted to join the Thanda team because firstly I love children and secondly I have seen so many good things Thanda has done in the community and I wanted to be a part of that.”
The community really were the driving force behind making this playgroup a reality as Thembisile’s mother, Margaret, was the person who pushed for it to open, offering up her own home to act as the location for the sessions.
Margaret told us “I did not mind opening up my home to Thanda. It was needed because the women in the community had no place to leave their children. Since 2020, I have been speaking to the people at Thanda to help us open this playgroup. They heard us, now we are here.”
On the property itself, there is a concrete slab up front, where the children do their outdoor activities such as paint, play, skip and more! When you stand on the slab the rural beauty of the area comes into focus. There are a lot of trees and the houses are faaaaar apart with lots of land in between.
The people we ran into while we were there all had a lively, jovial energy, especially the guardians. One particular gogo, Nokhuthula, arrived to pick up her grandchildren huffing and puffing from the distance she had walked. But when she sat down, she wanted to know all about what the little ones had been up to that day. The gratitude for this programme and the sincere investment by the guardians in their children’s learning really was clearly evident.
Nokhuthula shared “I am Siyanda’s guardian. He is 4 years old. This is the first time he will be in an environment where he has to learn and interact with other children. I knew it would be good for him be in the group. I have never heard of anything bad about Thanda, in fact I have seen other playgroups that Thanda is involved in and how sharp the children are.… I wanted my son to have a better opportunity than I. I also don’t want him to get left behind, going to grade 1 without knowing how to hold a pen or even attempt to write his name. Now that he is here I hope he will learn.”
We left the playgroup infected with the positive energy of everyone we met there. The team of women running this Fun Foundations group are truly lovely. They made us feel so welcome and their eagerness and passion was remarkable.
We hope you enjoyed taking a closer look into our newest Fun Foundations playgroup with Bongeka!
We would like to take this opportunity to say THANK YOU for being a part of the Thanda family. It is your generous contribution that makes our work possible. Because of you, and funders like you, 132 children in rural KwaZulu Natal have access to a high quality early learning curriculum through our Fun Foundations Programme (with a current total of 248 children across our Early Learning Initiative). Because of you, and funders like you, 18 children and counting in Etsheni now have a place to learn, play and grow into their fullest potential.
** The photographs accompanying this report were all taken at Etsheni Fun Foundations Playgroup on the day of Bongeka's visit **
The first two months of 2022 have flown by and we are all smiles here at Thanda.
We have many exciting things on the go…
Our Boys and Girls Days are having their curriculum re-developed, our Inclusion Programme has just procured one of our hearing-impaired participants with an auditory device, our baseline M&E assessments are almost completed and so much more!
But the biggest and most exciting news since our last check-in is that WE ARE BACK to in person learning AT THANDA!
What does that mean?
Children on the playground
Children on the swings
Children in the classrooms
Children in the skatepark
Children in the library
Children in the art centre
... which is exactly what we love to see.
Our Imbewu ECD has been absolutely BUZZING since opening up, in line with South Africa’s current Covid-19 protocols, in January 2022.
This has been a long time coming since programmes have not been able to operate from the Thanda Community Centre as normal since the beginning of the pandemic – that’s almost two years! Having the children on site to be able to learn and play together with so many different friends and classmates as well as their having access to the beautiful playground, classrooms and other Thanda facilities, has been wonderful and we are so happy to welcome our ECD participants each day.
In February our ECD children explored the theme of ‘Belonging’. This introductory theme was designed to help them feel comfortable, safe and at ease in their new surroundings at Thanda as many of them are completely new to the community centre.
Anthropologist Ella Deloria once described the core value of belonging in these simple words: “Be related, somehow, to everyone you know.” These words form a guiding principle of this theme. Treating others as kin forges powerful social bonds that draw all into relationships of respect. Theologians have observed that throughout history the tribe, rather than the nuclear family, always ensured the survival of culture. Even if parents died or were not responsible, the tribe was always there to nourish the next generation.
The bonds of community are so important and our hope is that introducing the idea to children early on, lays a solid foundation for them going forward.
We used the children’s storybook, Blue Chameleon by Emily Gravett to dive into these complex concepts with our ECD participants in an easy to understand way. The story, about a chameleon trying to make friends, introduces our young beneficiaries to colours, while at the same time helping them understand where and how they fit in to various groups and organisations.
Children explored questions like: What is a family? What is my role in my family? What is a community? How is my classroom a community? What is my role in my classroom? How is my classroom part of Thanda? Who am I in the Thanda community?
The pictures we have attached to this report are of one of the arts activities associated with Blue Chameleon. The children are drawing the outlines of their bodies on the skatepark floor with big chalk. They then coloured these outlines with different shades and patterns, just the like chameleon from Blue Chameleon storybook.
We are looking forward to more fun and learning, just like this, in 2022!
Thank you for being part of the Thanda family. Without you, none of this would be possible!
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