Academic Program Developments
A major development within our primary school program is the addition of a critical English bridging program for Grade 4 learners. Our learners are taught from Grades 1-3 in isiXhosa, and then in Grade 4, they shift to English. This is a huge educational risk. With under-resourced schools, poorly skilled teachers, and large classroom size, there’s little opportunity for the children to receive the same standard of education as, for example, an English speaking learner going to an English speaking school. Therefore, we’ve designed the program to be participatory and interactive and to ensure it works across all subject matter.
Within our academics, we’ve also incorporated exam revision and preparation intensive programs that run twice a year holiday programs in April, July, and September to revise material covered during the year in a more experimental and fun way working with Jump maths to provide an improved maths learning program for learners.
We’ve successfully developed an enrichment program (on a quarterly schedule) that includes motivational speakers and excursions with the goal to expand our learners’ perspective on life. Lead by our American volunteer social worker, Leeann Sadler, we’ve also started to focus more on psychosocial support for learners, helping to mitigate the risk of drop out. This program is linked to a BC Indigenous initiative in Chilliwack that is led by AnxietyBC and supported by EwB.
Other Developments and Highlights
We’ve made huge inroads in program evaluation. One of our American volunteers, Bryce Pulley, together with our Head Tutor, Shingai Gunha, has re-designed the statistics-capturing process. This gives us an increased range of measurement and evaluation.
Our retention strategy is also showing positive results. This includes a far greater degree of support and motivation for the learners, including a feeling of place and membership within EwB and an increased sense of voice in terms of feedback and what they would like to see in the program. We’ve also added a reward scheme for good attendance. We’re seeing success with our Tutor Norms and Standards manual – a critical process we’ve driven this year. It provides a clear operational guideline/structure for our tutors and ensures the standards are implemented.
The Fezeka Choir continues to win competitions, and the Fezeka Secondary School’s management is being lead with energy and efficiency by its new Principal, Mr. Kevin Hockey.
Working in South Africa means we continue to face challenges of a society struggling with increased poverty and unemployment, failing infrastructure, and low skill sets, among other issues. This means EwB needs to adjust as larger systems become more ineffective, and we need to keep prioritizing our focus on individual learners. We have, however, seen increased donor support within South Africa, and we continue to value the incredible support shown by Canadian EwB supporters too.
Despite our struggles, there is passion and commitment in our team, and there are the children who are learning, and feel safe and supported because of what EwB does.