"Reading and Learning Rooms - The beginning
On July 29th, 2010, the LitCam project "Reading and Learning Rooms" started in Mfuleni, a township of Cape Town, South Africa. The opening event took place in the Women for Peace Nobantu Centre in Mfuleni.
Seeing as how a large portion of the South African population does not participate in the Cape Town Book Fair's activities, LitCam and the fair organisers planned to build up and support Reading and Learning Rooms in the townships of Kayelitsha and Mfuleni. The rooms will be equipped with books and learning material, as well as additional educational technology and material. The project received initial support from the Siemens Foundation, private sponsors and our cooperation partner, Avallain. Thanks to the initial funding from the Siemens Foundation, we hired a teacher, Mr. Mawonga Mcuba, in February 2011. He teaches at the neighbouring school with 40 to 50 kids in each classroom.
Little wonders of science
Mr. Mcuba appreciates the opportunity to take time for the individual educational needs of the children in the reading rooms. In order to visualize natural processes he uses the Discovery Boxes sponsored by the Siemens Foundation. The Discovery Boxes provide equipment for scientific experiments in the fields of energy, electricity, environmental studies and health. To enhance their learning experience, Mr. Mcuba encourages the children to experiment with the different tools, like light bulbs and batteries, themselves. "Kids learn a lot faster and better when they can touch the items and see for themselves how things work," Mawonga Mcuba says. He uses teaching materials developed by the Primary Science Project, a long-existing local NGO, which we were able to purchase, thanks to a private donation. In the meantime, various workshops took place dealing with hygiene, security and nutrition. 25 children can participate in each workshop and the results are very positive: Some parents reported that their kids, after participating in Mr. Mcuba’s workshops, voluntarily brushed their teeth or explained to them that vegetables are very healthy.
News from the "Reading and Learning Room":
The Reading and Learning Room classes make an impact
March 2014: “The program and Mr. Mawonga have definitely made a huge difference in the children’s learning," writes our coordinator from South Africa. 99% of all children attending the Reading and Learning Room passed all of their classes at school. Due to the huge demand we specified the following for the programme: The classes will be open for 25 children from 10 to 14 years. The teacher will select the children who will benefit most from partaking in the programme. Furthermore the teacher will develop a long-term plan and write monthly reports for the students. The photo shows the children immersed in their new books, which they received thanks to a donation in March 2014.
Letters from South Africa
April 2013: What is happening in the "Reading and Learning Room"? Why do the children attend the extra classes voluntarily after their normal school schedule? The children from Mfuleni, a township of Cape Town, answer all these questions. David, Graham, Danica, Owam and Yamelka talk about their daily life, their families and of the importance the "Reading and Learning Room" has for them. They enjoy attending Mr. Mawonga Mcuba’s classes. He helps them to improve their reading and writing, supports them with their arithmetic and he always prepares an interesting extra topic, such as natural sciences or health questions. These additional classes help the children to improve their school marks. Thus, the classes provide a small step into a confident future without poverty and illiteracy.
Supporting reading and writing
Mr. Mawonga Mcuba has spent the last four months teaching Natural Science and Social Science three times a week in the Reading and Learning Rooms in the Women for Peace Center in Mfuleni. Now he has written about his own experiences:
"As a helping educator in the project, teaching pupils Natural Science and Social Science from grade 4 upwards till grade 8 sometimes. I discovered that pupils are very interested in what I am teaching them, because mostly it is practical knowledge, in comparison to their schools, which lack practical resources (out of box equipment). I also teach them how to connect electrical components (battery, wires, bulb) in order to build a simple circuit. Hands-on teaching increases student interest, because they learn more by touching. It is not easy for some of them to forget what they have touched. I used to come to the Centre and leave without teaching them, because they were busy with other activities. Sometimes I decide to call upon grade R to grade 3, and teach them also about how to make simple circuits. Then I also noticed that they learn faster how to connect, and they feel very excited as I clap my hands when the bulb shines. The following day I had to stop fights, because the grade Rs and others claim to be the first to enter the class. Since I am teaching them for fun, then some pupils are telling me that in their schools some of my lessons are being asked. So they answer very easy, because some others were asked to make a simple circuit as the school activity in Natural Science, they were happy the day were breaking these news saying they know how to connect it. I was also proud of what I am teaching find a place in their brains/minds. I cannot leave behind the contribution of German resources because they make the difference. Learners from any background can gain more knowledge at the Reading and Learning Room in Nobantu Centre, if they can follow the three Ls (Listen, Learn and Lead). By so doing and producing these types of brilliant pupils, the RaL-Room at the centre may get more sponsors."
Lively classes and active support in Mfuleni
In 2013, we had the German intern Lisa helping our project. She not only supported Mr. Mcuba during the lessons, but she also helped with words and activities. The smaller kids are read to regularly and Lisa helps the older ones with the homework. They also really enjoy using the "100 Dollar Laptops" (by OLPC), which are equipped with educational software that Lisa showed them how to use. Using the laptop independently improves students’ computer skills. Our partner, Avallain, sponsored the laptops. Through their daily work, the RaL-Team in Mfuleni figured that the reading skills especially of the older children are poorly developed. Even though they can hardly read, they come to the RaL Room out of curiosity. The team will take this chance to offer more reading skills opportunities. Workshops for own reading skills and skills for reading out to children are planned for parents, generally mothers.