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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
Parents at the first workshop
Parents at the first workshop

2020 started with a wonderful parent workshop for the parents of the schools we support. We had over 120 parents and everyone was excited for the year. Wanga Zembe, a qualified social worker, who is an advisor to our Board, joined us for the workshop and parents were delighted to engage with her and get her support. So often in the township environment it is hard to know where to turn for advice and how to get help. The different age groups were catered for and each parent took home a wonderful pack for their children. It was exciting to see how engaged the parents were and Wanga was very surprised and delighted to see that lots of dads attended the workshop too.

Unfortunately in March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit us and the government of South Africa called for a state on national disaster and the country went into lockdown. All the educares we support had to close and the children and parents stayed at home. This has resulted in a really difficult time for families in Mfuleni. Many parents lost their income and/or jobs. Significantly, children no longer had access to the daily meal they were getting at school each day, which for many is their main meal. It has been challenging for everyone and at the time of writing this report the schools have still not reopened.

As the reality of the lockdown became clear, Starting Chance chose to be very proactive as there was no financial lifeline for educares in the informal sector and we wanted to maintain the teams we have invested in building so that parents will be able to access quality learning environments after COVID. We have partnered with other non-profits and have provided food vouchers for parents as well as food donations to two of our schools so that they have been able to feed parents, children and the elderly. It has been wonderful to see how our schools have stepped up and helped their community. We also experimented with sending out short videos giving parents ideas of what they could do with their children at home too, but unfortunately most parents cannot afford the data to download the videos.

The time spent in lockdown has reinforced the plight of the poor and the huge gap between different groups of society in South Africa. However, we have been heartened by the amazing support from local and international Friends of Starting Chance and other NPO’s who have been so supportive during this time. There are many stories of good being done as people reach out.

It is now time to get the schools ready for reopening. There are a lot of requirements for the schools to comply with government regulations, and now that people are losing loved ones, people are scared of what may still come as we reach the COVID peak. Principals have no money to buy the necessary equipment, so we are appealing to you to help us make packs available. The parents need to know the schools are safe, that the teachers have the necessary PPE and their children have sufficient hand sanitisers and masks for them to not be at risk. We are focusing on essentials as shown in the picture and the list below – we would be so grateful if you could donate money to help us reach our target of equipping 30 schools. If children parents have confidence in their children being in a safe environment they can restart work, children can begin to learn once more and schools can begin to operate so that principals can retain their staff.

Through this support we hope to emerge with COVID-19 ready schools, teachers, parents and children and in this way continue to give our families a restart on their educational journey.

Join in– help us to flatten the curve of poverty and hopelessness.

Wanga Zembe
Wanga Zembe
Food donations at Blooming Stars
Food donations at Blooming Stars
COVID-19 kit for schools
COVID-19 kit for schools

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Engaged and responsive teachers
Engaged and responsive teachers

In 2020 in South Africa we face a huge ongoing crisis in early childhood education. It is a sad fact that many children living in poor environments have to experience substantial inequality of opportunity in the early years which hinders them on their educational journey. Inequality is more impactful in early learning and in activities that support early cognitive development. Whilst there are ongoing discussions, policy changes and plenty of rhetoric both at government level and in local municipalities, the reality in township schools is perturbing.

Many of the schools we work with have poor learning environments – shacks with bad lighting, little ventilation and virtually no facilities or learning aids. The numbers in the classrooms are huge, the teachers often have very poor education themselves and the parents feel ill-equipped to help their child.

So what is the answer – is it all doom and gloom? Perhaps one of the most overlooked positive factors in township schools is the overwhelming passion and indomitable spirit of both the parents and the teachers. We believe that by offering parent engagement workshops throughout the year, we can harness this passion and despite the crises in early childhood education, we can all change the journey the future generation are embarking on. The key is how we each respond.

In 2020 we are running 4 workshops and in each workshop we will be looking at how we can all be good role models for our children in different areas of early childhood education. Without a doubt, a positive role model can change a child’s life for ever.

So how do we do it? Open discussion and good examples are a great way to start. Our Starting Chance field workers are hoping to set off on a journey with 9 teachers, one from each school in our full programme, to discover together what the key components of a good role model looks like in a township environment. It will, we are sure, be an interesting ride full of surprises. We are excited to have the help of an expert to help us on the way. Wanga Zembe, a specialist social worker will support and aid parents and teachers as they discover themselves and critical components of what makes a good role model.

Through this process we hope to emerge with responsive parents, teachers, supporters and friends who will help to change the current scenario to one that is positive, real, attainable and exciting.

Join us for the ride – help us reach 1000 parents in Mfuleni and change the lives of 1000 children.

Engaged children having fun with water
Engaged children having fun with water
Starting Chance Fieldworkers
Starting Chance Fieldworkers
Responsive parents
Responsive parents

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Lonwabo children having fun
Lonwabo children having fun

2019 has been a year of change for parents and children in the Starting Chance Programme. This year parents from 9 different educares in the Mfuleni township in Cape Town had the opportunity to come to interactive workshops to learn about how they could make a difference to their child's educational journey. We have had more parents than ever before and the 4 workshops we ran in 2019 were well supported and parents were very happy for the opportunity to learn how they could help their child. In poverty stricken environments, it is easy to lose heart. But passion and determination can change mind sets and approaches towards what support means and how to implement it.

In 2020, we are excited to introduce new ideas and upskill parents and teachers across our schools. Our theme for 2020 is "Hope  - our opportunity to change the future of our child." Hope is a rare commodity where there is violence, poor conditions, sadness and fear. But change can happen, one parent at a time. We will be focusing on our Lonwabo Special Care Centre and the building of a new school for 60 children who are differently abled. In township environments, these children are often called "the hidden children". They are  tucked away in shacks as community members don't know how to interact with them. We hope to hold interactive parent workshops with specialists to help the parents learn how to feed their children properly, how to sit them in a way that stimulates muscle development, and then how to play with their children within the bounds of what they can manage. This will be a first for Mfuleni and parents are excited to be included in specially designed sessions for them. It gives them hope that they can support their differently abled child in a new and positive way.

In 2020 we will be developing our parent rep team and upskilling their capabilities so that they will have a meaningful role in planning and executing the workshops. The team consists of 9 teachers from across our 9 schools and they have indicated they are really excited about their chance to reach their parent body to form a partnership between the parents and the teachers for the overral better programme for the children. This gives the teachers hope that they can make a meaningful difference to help the parents develop their children at home and build on the work that is being done at school. 

We will hold 4 workshops through the year - each workshop will focus on a key developmental area for the child at home. We know that to bridge the poverty divide we need our parents to stimulate, support and encourage their child at home and give them a different and better start than many of the parents had in their childhood. We look forward to an exciting year.

If you want to join the hopeful - please support this programme. We have the potential to reach over 1700 parents and their children but we need financial help to do it. Thank you for considering this project and to those who have supported already - thank you! Without you we would not be able to continue.

New Lonwabo school design
New Lonwabo school design
Hope for this child of the future
Hope for this child of the future
Parents and children learning new games
Parents and children learning new games

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Parent with puppet from the workshop
Parent with puppet from the workshop

The greatest gift you can give your child after unconditional love is education! This was the opinion of parents in Mfuleni on Saturday morning. But what is education? How can we provide it when we often don't understand what we need to do? What if we can't afford books and materials? These were some of the questions raised as we greeted each other on a Saturday morning.

Starting Chance has been providing training and development to early childhood centres for many years. As part of our programme we have done in depth analysis of key areas which require support and change. In many instances teachers find the concepts of using  language to develop reasoning skills, creative problem solving, sequencing, actions and consequence very difficult to grasp. Many of these skills are learned from an early age through exposure to books, reading, story time, fantasy and music. Opportunities for developing these skills have been few and far between and so they find it difficult to share and teach concepts with their children. The knock on effect of this is that children will battle later in their educational journey and ultimately will not reach their potential.

Many parents have said the same thing and so on Saturday 7th September we had our third parent workshop where we offered parents the opportunity to explore story telling through puppets and music. In poor communities, books are a luxury that few can afford, libraries are rarely available and musical instruments are a far flung dream. Our aim through the workshop was to empower parents to utilise simple household items to tell stories, to use recycled materials to make simple puppets and musical instruments and then start to use these things to tell stories. We wanted them to know that everyone can tell a story, develop language and utilise open ended questions to help children to develop the key skills to develop their language to create reasoning and logic.

There was much laughter and fun as parents lost their inhibitions and started experimenting. By the end of the session, stories were being told, music was played and childen were engaged and intrigued. Change starts in the home and if we can encourage parents to read and tell stories we will soon see a changing generation with a brighter future ahead of them.

Happy parents making puppets and instruments
Happy parents making puppets and instruments

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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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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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