On Youth Day (which takes place today, 16 June) The Love Trust is commemorating the youth of South Africa who in 1976 protested against inequality, injustice, and the right to a brighter future.
The Love Trust also recognises that nearly half a century later, there is still a lot of work to be done.
“With the help and efforts from organisations such as The Love Trust, we’re gaining momentum in the right direction”, they said.
From the perspective of The Love Trust and the team at Nokuphila Primary School in Thembisa: here is a look at what is, can, and should be done to help mould, inspire, prepare and support the youth of today who are shaping the world of tomorrow.
The importance of quality schooling and early childhood development:
According to the Chairman of The Love Trust, Dr. Jerry Gule, “if we neglect education, particularly those first seven years, we will be dooming our country and communities to utter poverty because education is a liberator, and the benefits are long term.”
The Director of Academics at The Love Trust, Silas Pillay, emphasises that if NGOs and organisations such as The Love Trust should close down due to lack of funding, it could be catastrophic for the future of our country. “If support for these organisations falls apart our levels of poverty and inequality will mushroom, and our social challenges will increase. There is no other community-supported initiative as important at the same scale as the ECD sector.”
Support for learners and families both in and outside of school:
As Head of Department of pre-primary and Chairperson of the School-Based Support Team (SBST) at Nokuphila Primary School, Mabel Sikhakhane is personally involved in the solution process when it comes to assisting learners to overcome learning barriers. These barriers range from academic acuity, domestic issues, psychological, emotional or health matters.
Teachers with learners who are battling with learning barriers reach out to the SBST who then come up with strategies and advise teachers on what to do. They offer their assistance in a myriad of ways, be it food parcels for the child to take home or adopting a new teaching method—as not all children learn the same way.
When asked how she measures the success of her hard work, Sikhakhane says that she first looks at how the learner is performing academically. Then they look at how they can impact a child’s situation at home and especially change parents’ perception of school to get them more involved in the school and participate in their child’s education – “Changing the parents’ perception means you will change the community and society at large.”
Sikhakhane believes that the confidence and trust the parents have in Nokuphila and The Love Trust to help provide the best quality education for their children, is reflected in the often-repeated request for a Nokuphila high school: “so that our children can have this good education going forward.” They’ve also received a number of queries from parents wanting to enrol in the ECD teacher training programme. “Parents are interested,” she states, “they want to be educated, and they take an interest in the school. If you call them they respond. If you write letters, they reply.” Another aspect of Nokuphila that encourages parent participation is the fact that Sikhakhane and her team assist learners to apply for scholarships to reputable high schools.
Stimulating a love for the sciences:
Head of the senior grades group at Nokuphila, Shepherd Chihwehwete, believes that by introducing mathematics at a young age we build the foundation for critical skills such as science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) in South Africa, which we are currently lacking. “Also,” Chihwehwete explains, “mathematics provides an effective way to practice mental discipline, since it encourages logical reasoning, and mental rigour. Children are given the chance in maths and science to reason logically as mathematics and science are absolute in their correctness. The basics of mathematics and science also play a crucial role in understanding the contents of other subjects, such as the social studies, the arts, and music”.
Investing in the future through technology:
Pillay believes “that technology on its own already adds value and the challenges brought about by Covid accentuates that”. He clarifies that Nokuphila already has an amazing tech infrastructure thanks to the foresight of The Love Trust leadership and the wonderful support of their donors because “our learners cannot lag behind in a global type of education system that is driving ICT in education.” The school is currently equipped with Wi-Fi, an IT lab, classrooms have Smartboards that have enhanced the pupils’ learning experience and a robotics course as an introduction to coding.
According to Pillay “teachers are our greatest resource but a hybrid teaching model will need to be implemented as in-person teaching might not always be possible—who knows when we’ll be forced into another lockdown”. This means that teachers will need to undergo further training to upskill and use new technologies and learning tools as well as methods with regards to remote learning. That will also mean financial investment in ICT infrastructure such as connectivity and technological resources. The alternative, he warns, is that “we will run a risk of lagging behind; the divide being even further between the middle and low class. And that these learners will be at a disadvantage in continuity: from primary, to secondary, to tertiary,” and will have a lasting effect in finding employment later in life.
A grade four maths teacher at Nokuphila, Sheila Madzikanda, explains that by integrating technologies into the classroom and teaching methods, learners will also be better prepared as technology forms part of their daily lives: “I don’t think the school can be divorced from the outside world—they should actually meet the needs of the community. And it also makes teaching easier”.
A student’s message to her peers
Technology is an important aspect of education for students such as Head Girl of Nokuphila Primary School, Buhle Precious Ngwenya. Although she doesn’t enjoy the computer lab as much as others, she understands the need to learn how to work with technology as it “has taken over the world” and is used in almost every aspect of our daily lives, such as the Smart Boards in the class room that she feels make learning easier for her.
Ngwenya, had the following words of advice for the girls in classrooms around South Africa (the women of tomorrow): “girls shouldn’t take pride in the things that they have, but rather take pride in being themselves, take on challenges and have a mind-set of a leader”.