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Boosting school readiness in a 1000 homes

by Starting Chance Trust
Boosting school readiness in a 1000 homes
Boosting school readiness in a 1000 homes
Boosting school readiness in a 1000 homes
Boosting school readiness in a 1000 homes
Sticking is creative and fun
Sticking is creative and fun

As we engage with the parents whose children attend schools we support, we are constantly amazed by their passion and desire to make their children’s childhood the best it can be. Supporting them on their road to a better start for their children must include the whole child’s development and that includes nutrition.  It is an ongoing concern in their environment as money is scarce and it is difficult to always choose healthy food as it is often more expensive. There are studies all over the world showing the negative impact that poor nutrition can have on early learning and development.  

The parent workshop on Saturday 8th June focused on a “healthy start for a better future”. For us healthy means good nutrition and a stimulating learning environment for our children to grow up in. Over 80 parents from 9 schools made their way to the Mfuleni Early Childhood centre. The parents attended stimulating talks on creative art and the importance of it in the home and nutrition and how to make it accessible for children. Nutrition posters were given to every parent so that they could be displayed on fridges as a reminder.

As the parents participated in art activities, the importance of "reuse, reduce and recycle" was emphasised by showing how we can use recycled materials to create stimulating opportunities for play. Parents enjoyed creating cars and buildings using boxes and learned how this could enhance early maths concepts. Others created pictures using sticking techniques and old magazine and newspapers. A great morning was had by all and parents couldn't wait to take their learning home to have fun with their children.

Fieldworker Bonita says, “It is clear that parents want information on how to extend their children as they have asked many questions during the talks.”

One of the highlights was the take away packs so that parents could start educational fun at home. For many, these packs are the only access they have to toys and educational equipment. At home children can’t wait to peek inside their bags and for play to begin!

Box construction helps early maths skills
Box construction helps early maths skills
Having fun staying healthy
Having fun staying healthy
Home packs to start the fun
Home packs to start the fun
Excited child with home pack
Excited child with home pack

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Equality is a founding value of the South African constitution and a fundamental right. But what does this mean in practice for our South African children and their parents? Income inequality has continued to rise. According to Stats SA 66.8% of children live in poverty of which 73.6% are black whilst 79.2% of South African adults with little or no education live in poverty. The divide between the rich and the poor gets wider and often there is a sense that the gap cannot be bridged. However – play changes that concept!

So for many families, playing with their children is not high on their agenda – they are fighting crime, living on less than R576 per month and are basically in survival mode. Does this mean they don’t want to play – absolutely not! On 9th March 2019, over 100 parents from Mfuleni gave up their Saturday morning to join Starting Chance for a play date. When asked if they play games with their children, we had varying responses which gave us some key insights. “I play on my cell phone with my child” was the most common reply.  Milteer and Ginsberg (2012) confirm that children spend less time engaging in play and spend more time engaged in sedentary activities like playing on cell phones, watching TV and playing video games. This is

true in townships too. “We don’t know what games to play,” was another common response.

In this parent engagement workshop, Starting Chance aimed to introduce parents to the concept of purposeful play using games that reinforce and enhance maths skills, language and literacy and life skills. Diverse backgrounds and different experiences provide children with essential opportunities to learn and express themselves through play.

Parents were divided into groups according to the age group of their children. Part of the learning outcome for them was to realise that purposeful play is different for each age group. We had groups of parents from the older children’s age groups playing snakes and ladders and dominoes – games none of them had played before. Before long there was laughter and language flowing out of the classrooms as parents got fiercely competitive and determined to win. They soon learned the value of taking turns, learning to win or lose and some counting skills in the process. One parent remarked, “I never knew games could be such fun – I can’t wait to play with my children.”

By playing the games themselves, parents quickly realised the value they could impart to their children. Whilst many of the more affluent families in Cape Town’s formalised residential areas regularly play these games with their children, this happens less in the more informal townships. However, the enjoyment of games is universal, as was shown on Saturday.

In the younger age groups, parents learned counting songs, matching games and how to use balls in games to enhance gross motor skills whilst learning to count and distinguish different colours.

At the end of the morning, parents took home a pack containing the game they had played, a book to read to their children and some extra fun activities to try with their children. They also took home a key message – play helps to build self-esteem, social skills and a sense of connectedness – which helps to make our children school ready. Together we can start to bridge the gap through engaged play.

We had many requests for more workshops. Help us to make it happen by supporting us to “boost school readiness in a 1000 homes.”

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Parent teachers team
Parent teachers team

Every loving parent has an innermost HEART desire to help their child to thrive. It matters not where the family lives - in poverty or in palaces - the desire is the same. Perhaps in poverty the heart is even more passionate. "My child trusts me - I don't want to let them down," a parent from Mfuleni told us.

In their HEADS, many parents in Mfuleni don't believe they can do enough. They don't have much education, many of them lived with abusive parents and they don't know how to help their children to have a better START. They can't envisage a different life and yet they really want it for their child.

But they are willing and passionate. They want to use their HANDS to play, to nurture, to support their child. They want to reach out and change the playing field.

In 2018 Starting Chance decided to train a team of teachers from the 9 schools we support to help with the Parent Project. Each month the team would meet with our field workers and plan the workshops and discuss aims and objectives. They started to envision a new future for themselves and the children. Their hearts were full of compassion and desire to help to empower the parents of the children who attended their schools.This proved to be an amazing opportunity for the teachers to upskill, become adult trainers, earn extra money and above all have the chance to inspire the parents.

In November 2018 we conducted an after action review to capture the learning to help us prepare for 2019. It was encouraging to hear from the teachers team that parents had really enjoyed the workshops we had conducted but more than that they had started to see a change in the children's behaviour and performance at school. Engaged parents meant engaged children! Parents who attended the workshops were spending more time with their children at home and were playing games, doing activities and supporting the teachers at school. The impact the 3 workshops that we ran in 2018 were indeed starting to have a knock on effect at home. For parents in Lonwabo Special Care Centre they had never thought they might play with their child.

The parents with whom we are working come from a different culture and often are reiticent about engaging with school and teachers. They themselves grew up in an environment where this was frowned upon and so changing this mindset is hard for them. In order to help them change and get ready to give their children a great start for a great future, we will be addressing this in 2019.

We have planned a parent engagement education morning in 1Q 2019. We will hire the largest school hall in Mfuleni to accommodate 400 parents. We will spend time in discussion groups with key questions to explore how children can be best supported. Acitivities parent will experience will include story-telling, outdoor games and creative art! It will be an amazing event - the biggest of its kind ever held in Mfuleni. Parents sharing with other parents and the teachers will be a new experience for all!

This introductory event will be followed by workshops on literacy, maths and life skills throughout the year. Each parent will receive packs that will enable them to play purposefully with their child at home, helping them reach the developmental milestones that will set them up for life-long learning.

2019 promises to be a game changing year for parents in Mfuleni and a new adventure for Starting Chance.

Parent with child
Parent with child
Parents at workshop
Parents at workshop

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Come and play Dad
Come and play Dad

One in 3 young people were unemployed in the first quarter of 2018 according to Stats SA. Despondency and hopelessness are common emotions expressed by the parents of the children who attend early childhood centres in Mfuleni, a township outside Cape Town.

“We want to run away from poverty and give our children the start we never had,” a parent shared with us. “We know education is the future but how do we help our child?”

Starting Chance supports 9 educares in their deep transformational programme and a further 16 in the Training Teachers in Townships programme. As we interact and chat to the parents and teachers it is obvious the parents are passionate about their children. They want to help them to have a better future. But often they themselves have not had an opportunity to have a good education and so they don’t know how to do it. They have very little money, so buying toys is not possible. Most are earning less than US$150 a month.

The Starting Chance parent engagement workshops offer parents the opportunity to learn how to make every day items like milk bottles and cereal boxes become engaging and educational toys to be used for quality time with their children. These workshops are run throughout the year. At the end of the morning, parents take home a Starting Chance Home Pack to start their fun with their children. These mornings are helping parents to get their children ready for "big school".

On a Saturday morning, there is a stirring, a sense of excitement. 52 parents make their way towards an educare called Blooming Stars, built by Starting Chance in. 2016. There is a sense of anticipation – it’s like going to school on your first day. A few fluttery nerves, giggles and greetings. A team of teachers, one from each of our schools and the Starting Chance field workers are there to welcome the parents and make them feel comfortable.

Everyone gathers in a classroom at the little tables and chairs where the children normally sit. The parents have a chance to experience some creative art, drawing pictures, creating creatures out of play dough, getting in touch with the child inside them. Caring teachers explain how important art is for the development of their children and how they can have fun at home doing art. The parents leave their art creation with a special note to their child for the next day.

Before they know it the morning has passed, they have learned how to make puzzles from cereal boxes, how to engage in storytelling and most of all, how to have educational fun with their child at home.

“The parents workshop was very educating to the parents, it opens their minds and show them the importance of sending kids to school on time, how kids learn, and explore” Grateful parent.

Running away from poverty
Running away from poverty
Fun with my son - learning together
Fun with my son - learning together
Look what we can do together
Look what we can do together
Starting Chance Home packs
Starting Chance Home packs
Parents having fun at Starting Chance workshop
Parents having fun at Starting Chance workshop

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Organization Information

Starting Chance Trust

Location: Cape Town - South Africa
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Project Leader:
Ali Corbett
Cape Town, South Africa

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