We spoke to Monica Hammes from the KamCare a RE bale programme in Pretoria about their programme and the learners they serve.
Tell us about your Programme?
Our programme, sometimes known as a RE bale, is an English reading programme using the Reading Eggs software, sponsored by the Click Foundation. The programme is part of the work of Kamcare which renders social and training services in the Roodeplaat area to the north of Pretoria. We run the programme at two schools: Leeuwfontein Primary Farm School, about 20 km outside Pretoria. It started as a real farm school in 1957 but now only caters for children from two informal settlements, known as Plot 175 and Plot 143 who are taken there by bus every day. The other is the Kameeldrift Early Learning Centre (KELC) in Plot 175. It is an good solution for the well recorded poor schooling in rural areas (61 kids in one single grade 1 class! – and the teacher is still sane). It would have been ideal if all children could be exposed to it and for longer periods. A well rounded package such as Reading Eggs makes it possible in our specific situation to “teach” successfully (because it is actually a learning experience): the children only speak Sepedi, Johan and I are Afrikaans/English/body language speakers and Jaqueline and Francis are Sepedi/English speakers. We started in 2014 at the KELC with a few kids and 4 computers and expand whenever we get more resources. Currently we have 136 kids on the programme and in May we will start with another 38.
What is the goal of the programme?
To help children learn to read well and with understanding in English.
Describe the community that the programme serves?
The children come from two large and ever growing informal settlements on the outskirts of Pretoria. Their parents are mostly new arrivals in the city and come from Limpopo, Mpumalanga and even Zimbabwe. They are VERY poor, many of them unemployed. These two places are generally unbelievably dirty. Families are crammed in small shacks. There are only a few taps and toilets for thousands of people, no electricity. Hence they do not even see TV and their exposure to books is limited to the school. They are mostly Sepedi speakers and their knowledge of English almost non-existent. The Xander apps play a very valuable role in helping children gain vocabulary in a playful way.
Parents do not care about the school and are just too glad that their children are cared for and fed during the day. But they are exposed to lots of social problems. They know about crime, maltreatment. Indeed a rather dismal picture but nevertheless they are happy children full of fun, games and pranks. One feels immensely sorry for them to be trapped in such surroundings. The two schools where we work are not good either.
How is it funded?
The Click Foundation funds the access to the Reading Eggs programme and has also promised us 10 new laptops and headphones which we will receive in May. Without them this programme would not have been possible. We get a grant from Beeld Kinderfonds which covers our running expenses. We receive donations from individuals and organisations for computers, books and Xander application which learners enjoy.
What kind of activities do you do with the learners?
We go to each of the schools twice a week with our laptops and related paraphernalia and have half hour Reading Eggs sessions for all learners. We use regular school periods for this. Everyone sits in front of his/her own laptop, communicating with the characters in the programme via mouse and headphone. Everyone is signed in individually and on his/her own track and therefore learns at an appropriate pace. Every sessions starts with reading a book. If they complete the quiz successfully (80%+) the book is added to their personal bookshelves. Every 10 lessons – each consisting of about 9 games – end with a quiz for which they get a certificate if completed successfully.
In the near future we are also going to start with Mathseeds, the Maths module.
Who facilitates the activities?
There are four of us working on the programme. I am volunteering but Johan Bisschoff, Jaqueline Mashitiso and Francis Ledwaba are paid. We all go to the Leeuwfontein school on Tuesdays and Fridays for a school day from 08:30 – 14:00 and Jaqueline does the KELC on Mondays and Wednesdays. Fortunately our good learner/facilitator ratio gives us the opportunity to pay special attention to each child every day.
Who are some of your partners?
The Click Foundation, Beeld Kinderfonds, Xander and Nalibali.
How can people/ businesses get involved?
This school badly needs a dedicated computer centre as well as 10 more laptops. Airtime also comes in handy. Jaqueline would make a fantastic teacher – she has a diploma in social work – but cannot afford it while she also has to help support her siblings. If someone could sponsor her studies it will be to the advantage of everyone. We are also collecting copies (or money for) of the Sepedi version of the Children of God Bible stories by Desmond Tutu at R60 per copy to give to the grade 2 learners at the end of the year: Bana ba Modimo Puka ya dikanegelo tsa Bibel.
Email details email@example.com
Website link www.kamcare.org