Category: Creative Learners | Education system improvement | 30 May, 2013 - 02:00← BACK
In rural South African contexts numerous socio-economic, logistical, infrastructural, and resource barriers hamper the adequate care of children in the after school hours. When the school day ends many rural children of all ages, are left to walk home, do their homework, make a meal, and find entertainment by themselves. Without sound and encouraging supervision, and appropriate stimulation, these children are at risk of neglecting their academic homework, and of engaging in unsafe or inappropriate activities. Furthermore, extra curricula activities are limited at many rural schools and the children do not have the opportunity to explore their potential talents in drama, dance, arts, activity clubs, debating, music, or sports. This leaves many children without the chance to find their talent or skill and inhibits their growth of self-confidence and a sense of adequacy.
Thus there is a dire need for more organised afterschool care that is available to youngsters. Afterschool care programs need to be appealing to the youngsters, they need to be safe, and they need to offer a nurturing environment that focuses on the children’s holistic wellbeing and development. The Anna Foundation attempts to meet this need in its 3Rs Afterschool Facilities. The 3Rs Afterschool Program was first piloted in 2005 at a farm school in Mpumalanga. It has now been extended to serve 13 farm communities in the Western Cape, and serves over 350 children. There are 18 trained facilitators who run the aftercare programs. They are all locally employed community members.
The 3Rs Afterschool Program Strategy
The Anna Foundation’s 3Rs Program stands for Reading, Running and ‘Right-ing’. It is designed to address the needs of rural school-going children aged 5 – 18 years old who have little or no productive supervision or healthy stimulation after school hours. The 3Rs concept is based on a belief in holistic childhood development and aims to help each child establish a sense of positive self worth and self-confidence. The rationale underpinning this approach is that children without a positive self-image and without strong self-confidence do not perform optimally at school, do not value the need for self-improvement, make poor life choices, and do not develop an aspirational vision for their future.
To achieve the project goals of caring for children after school and helping them develop self worth, the 3Rs Program provides three extra curricula levels of support at its afterschool centres.
1) Academic support: The Anna Foundation has developed a complete 3Rs Curriculum, which offers grade specific worksheets for learners from Grade R up to Grade 12. The curriculum is broadly based on the South African National Educational Outcomes but has an added Life Skills component to each lesson. In this way it aims to ensure the children receive life long learning through their academic education.
2) Physical activity: The physical component of the 3Rs Program initially started as a running club, but has evolved into a more structured set of physical wellbeing activities, which are outlined in the Foundation’s Physical Education Manual. The activities focus on gross motor skills development, group sports skills development, and imaginative physical play. Each lesson is cleverly designed to target specific learning outcomes and gives step-by-step guidelines for the aftercare facilitator.
3) Life Skills Development: The life skills component of the 3Rs Program is incorporated into the educational curriculum and echoed throughout the sporting/physical activities. The Foundation is currently in the process of creating a life skills manual to complement the sports and educational manuals.
The curriculum runs everyday, after school hours, throughout the school year with holiday programs administered during school holiday times.
Suggestions for others: Initiating and implementing a 3Rs afterschool Program
The Anna Foundation’s 3Rs Program has been designed to allow other organisations and institutions to adopt and use it in their own contexts. To ensure successful use of the program the following steps should be followed:
Before launching an aftercare program in any community it is critically essential to begin by consulting influential members of the community, as well as to speak to educational and childcare specialists working in the area. The list of possible stakeholders to consult includes: teachers, community leaders, religious leaders, landowners, school principals, teachers, business owners, and parents. For the initiative to succeed, it is important that all stakeholders share a common view of the target group needs. This common view will help you gain the support for the project.
After the consultations with community representatives it is vital to conduct a needs assessment. This assessment should first focus on identifying the target population (school-going children), the number of children who would participate and benefit in the afterschool program, and the particular needs that aren’t yet being met.
Next, a needs-assessment must determine the actual content of the after school program. In other words, it should reveal where the program facilitators must invest their time and effort in order to best serve the children’s needs.
Finally, based on the stakeholder consultations, local evidence gathered, trusted statistics, and sound literature, incorporate all your findings into a comprehensive area needs-assessment report and use this report as the foundation form which to develop your final project plan.
Make use of the stakeholder consultation sessions to help identify a fitting afterschool program venue. The venue must be suitably sized to accommodate the number of participating children; it must meet certain basic safety and health standards; it should include in an indoor facility as well as an outdoor area that is suitable for sports / games (e.g. must be level, smooth, cleared of debris, etc.); and it needs to be safe for the children and staff and to protect the material resources.
The venue must be also stocked with furniture (tables, chairs, shelves, lock up cupboard, white board, reading mat and cushions). Although not essential, it is a good idea to paint the buildings in child friendly colours and designs, and to source a supply of enticing, age-appropriate, books, educational games and puzzles, stationery, sports equipment, arts and craft materials.
Recruit community members to assist in cleaning and maintaining the venue. This will give them a sense of ownership and pride in the after school care of their children.
Where possible, the 3Rs Program facilitator should be a community member as this helps to ensure program sustainability, and offers a local employment opportunity. The facilitator must, first and foremost, have a passion for children, a willingness to learn, a desire to grow, and a Grade 12 qualification. In addition to running the daily aftercare program, the selected candidate must have at least 2 hours free during the week to prepare for the afternoon contact sessions with the children, and he/she must arrive 30 minutes before the children each afternoon.
The Anna Foundation believes in quality training for all appointed 3Rs Facilitators. These facilitators implement the program on a daily basis and their own development and understanding of the program is fundamentally important to the program success.
Facilitators participate in an initial 2-week introduction course on the project, afterschool care, program facilitation and childhood development. They then take part in monthly group training sessions, and individual assistance is offered on site at each afterschool facility to ensure the specific needs of each facilitator are met. The training covers topics such as teaching skills and strategies, classroom management, child behaviour, child developmental stages, sports know-how, and life skills lessons.
The training also focuses on the personal development of facilitators. Facilitators set quarterly goals for themselves, assisted by their project manager, and are encouraged to try and reach these goals. Incentives are offered to facilitators who achieve their set goals.
The commitment and support from parents of the afterschool beneficiaries is crucial to ensuring the program outcomes are reached and that it is sustainably run. By hosting an introductory parent evening to explain the project and their role in its success, you can garner this support. This will help motivate parents to ensure their children attend the afterschool program. Parent meetings should be held regularly thereafter – once per school term is a reasonable number.
All children enrolled in the afterschool program must have an indemnity form signed by their parent or guardian. Parents can sign the form at the first introduction meeting and direct any questions or concerns to the program facilitator.
If your budget can afford it, launch the aftercare program by hosting an opening ceremony to which parents, children, community members, and other stakeholders are invited. Provide light refreshments and very short speeches, and make sure that registration runs smoothly and efficiently. This means having enough people to help with registration and making sure that each child’s details are accurately captured and their file includes a signed identity form. Most importantly, begin with the full 3Rs program activities: Lesson 1.1 and lesson 1.2 is completed in this week (Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday).
It is important to regularly monitor the project to ensure that implementation is happening as planned. Each aftercare facilitator is required to submit a quarterly report on the facility, daily running of the program, and the children’s participation. We track each child’s educational progress by conducting academic assessments twice a year, and follow up on their psychological wellbeing by asking them to complete a specially designed survey once a year. A daily attendance register records their commitment and interest in attending the afterschool – admittance is voluntary. We aim to ensure an average of 80% attendance throughout the year for primary school children.
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In this learning brief, the Anna Foundation offers suggestions on how to initiate and implement an afterschool program in rural farming communities. It emphasises holistic child development by encouraging academic, physical, emotional and social wellbeing in its afterschool care program.