THE ROTARY CLUB OF ORKNEY AND THE NWU BELIEVE FROM SMALL BEGINNINGS COME GREAT THINGS
Institutional Office – Teachers of St Conrad’s College, Klerksdorp Primary School and Strathvaal Primary School in Stilfontein were trained both how to teach reading by means of the Literacy For All reading programme and also how to train their fellow teachers in a later programme roll-out of a Rotary project launched in collaboration with the North-West University’s Language Directorate on Monday 15 March 2010.
The aim of this project is to teach reading in the mother tongue plus at least one additional provincial language by making use of Literacy For All, a reading programme built around progressive sets of readers for each grade. The advantage of the programme is that it was developed by South Africans for South African circumstances. The sponsor provided material in the official languages (Setswana, Afrikaans and English) of the province and teachers have been trained to teach reading in all three.
This followed after the Rotary Club Orkney received a bequest from the J.A. Neser Harry Bramley Trust The original idea was to enhance library facilities at St Conrad’s College, but upon consultation with the NWU’s Language Directorate it was decided that foundation phase literacy enhancement would be a better investment – especially since Rotary clubs have already been involved in a number of reading programmes utilising the Literacy For All programme in the Western Cape. This project would then be an important trial in the North West Province to confirm the Western Cape trial findings, but more learners had to be involved to increase validity. Hence two more KOSH schools were brought on board: Strathvaal Primary School in Stilfontein and Klerksdorp Primary School.
The North-West University sees this project as an investment in the future of the region’s children. There is clear evidence of a strong link between reading difficulties in primary school and subsequent poor employment history in early adult life. If the foundation is not sound, the builders’ efforts are futile. Basic literacy is attained after approximately three years of formal schooling. After these three years a learner should be able to demonstrate the acquisition of basic/fundamental skills – given that the schooling took place in the home language.
The problem, however, is that many learners are not educated in their home language. Conceptualisation is hampered by what in many instances is essentially a ‘foreign’ language. Home language instruction not only improves conceptualisation but also aids acquisition of other languages by way of the home language – the principle of first the familiar, then the unfamiliar. A second language is learned on the basis of existing proficiencies already acquired in the home language.
The reading project links up with goals set by the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga. She claimed in 2007 that the fact that the mother tongue was not used as medium of instruction in primary schools was a factor contributing to the weak performance of learners. Thus she set the goal of promoting the use of the home language in the foundation phase.
There is proven success in Western Cape, where Rotary is sponsoring approximately 23 schools on the programme. At the Isiphiwo Primary School in Khayelitsha 600 learners in the foundation phase were tested on their grade 3 literacy: in 2006 only 5,3% of learners were on standard, but after intervention between August 2006 and April 2007 by means of training of teachers and readers provided by the Rotary Club the results stood at 52%.
Findings of the project in these three schools will be publicised by way of media statements and research publications and hopefully, with the help of sponsors, more schools in North West will implement the programme in future.
Enquiries: Johan Blaauw or Karien Brits, Language Directorate,
018 299-4890 or 018 299-4892
Date: 26 March 2010