Creative Learners

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Learning Brief

Ikhaya Le Themba

iKhaya le themba – supporting families to support children in reaching their full potential

Category: Creative Learners | Reading Promotion | 30 May, 2013 - 02:00


iKhaya le themba was founded in 2003 by Kenilworth Vineyard Church at the invitation of local community leaders and other NGOs in Imizamo Yethu, Hout Bay. The mission of iKhaya le themba is to provide psycho-social support to children and families affected by HIV/AIDS or who have been made vulnerable for other reasons.

Through conversations with the community, it was identified that after-school care would be the most appropriate way to provide this assistance. In addition, the community identified the need for their children – as well as for parents – to become competent in reading and writing both English and their home language of Xhosa. The reading programme at iKhaya le themba was thus one our first programmes and continues to be a core element to our functioning. But we have also extended our programme in the form of adult workshops and support groups to further address the crisis in the care and education of children from disadvantaged backgrounds, and are seeing the benefits for children of empowering the adults who care for them.

iKhaya le themba’s purpose, strategic approach and expected outcomes

Whilst the HIV infection rate is estimated to have plateaued at 28% of the population, the crisis of children who continue to be orphaned by AIDS continues to grow. To date, the traditional form of care for orphans has been orphan homes and group foster homes, but there are several reasons why this type of care is not always the best solution. A primary reason is that African communities feel that it is their job to raise these children – and that removing them from their communities is not always in the best interest of the child. As such, communities are looking for ways that children can stay within their circle of support and familiar environs, thus decreasing the impact of loss that HIV/AIDS brings into the children’s lives.

It is from this standpoint that models such as iKhaya le themba are being developed to offer support to families caring for orphans within the community, enabling them to provide for children who are not their own. Our model of care is holistic: we offer a programme to the children and families that is integrated and multi facetted.

Support at iKhaya le themba for the children takes two forms. Firstly, we have a community worker who visits with the families and other services involved with the child. She acts as a link between all parties, ensuring that the interests of the child are best served. Secondly, we provide these children with a safe place to play, learn and grow within an after-school context. This decreases the burden of care on families caring for orphans, and also gives the children access to intensive care services when these are needed.

Through our work, however, we see that children still do not often reach their learning potential. This is due to various reasons, such as:  

  1. Parents who are poorly educated struggle to support their children’s learning.
  2. Schools that are under strain due to overcrowding and lack of resources are unable to create a safe and supporting learning environment for children or to give them space to explore, make mistakes and ask questions.
  3. Children who are stressed due to community violence, family hardship and lack of food and resources are in a poor position to learn as their focus narrows on survival.

Our strategy therefore is to:

  1. Support parents in their approaches to learning.
  2. Support the children with educated, caring adult staff who can work alongside parents in encouraging children’s education.
  3. Support the school by providing assistance to learners who are struggling during class time and by taking referrals to our after-care centre from the school.
  4. Create a safe learning environment at our programmes in which children are encouraged to try, ask questions, make mistakes, develop strategies and become curious and engaged with their world.
  5. Remediate the emotional stress on children and families through therapeutic groups and life-skills classes.
  6. Provide for the nutritional needs of children through meals and food parcels for families in financial crisis.

If we are successful, we expect to see the following outcomes in children:

  • Increased self-confidence, ability to express ideas, and leadership potential of children.
  • Increased curiosity and willingness to learn.
  • Increased awareness of social problems in the community (HIV and AIDS, teenage pregnancy and drug and alcohol abuse) and the knowledge and motivation to avoid these.
  • Ability to complete all basic life skills, including reading and writing, practical Maths, food gardening, self care and food preparation. 

In the families, we expect to see:

  • Security in the family unit with no children removed by social services or relocated to extended family in other communities.
  • Increased willingness and ability within the family unit to parent the children who are not their own.
  • Increased participation and support for their child’s education. 

Implementation to date: Programmes for parents and caregivers

In conjunction with our after-care programmes and one-on-one care of children through community workers, who connect children to the appropriate service providers should they need additional support, we also offer support to parents, teachers and other adults looking after children.

A. School-based support

In terms of overcoming the challenge of teachers reported to be losing their tempers or physically punishing the children, we have held workshops with the teachers at a school within the community to equip them with strategies to deal with challenging behavious among children; to share good practice strategies for discipline as opposed to punishment; and to help teachers understand the children’s behaviour and how it can be a barrier to learning.

B. Quarterly skills development workshops

Just as we work with children and schools, parents (or adults acting as caregivers to children in their community) form a third and key group we work with as part of our holistic and multi-facetted programme. Our interactions with parents / adults in the community comprise skills development workshops, namely:

  • Adult literacy workshops in which participants reported increased confidence and fluency in spoken and written English, and as a result, were encouraged to be more involved in their children’s education.
  • A food gardening workshop allowed parents and caregivers to learn how to prepare organic food gardens; care for crops and harvest; and how to compost thus increasing food sustainability for their families, which can be a significant challenge for children’s ability to learn at school.
  • We also held Parent-with-Courage workshops to aid parents and caregivers in developing their parenting skills and supporting their children. This proved particularly useful for single parents, and many new friendships were formed at the workshops, where participants enjoyed sharing their experiences and hearing from one another, thereby helping them to extend their network of support beyond the workshop.
  • Another series of workshop provided parents of 0-6 year olds learned how to play with children to stimulate development. Parents said they found the workshop very interesting and really enjoyed sharing their experiences as well as learning new ways of bonding with their children. They learned about creating healthy environments for themselves and their children in order to stimulate growth and communication.

C. Support groups for parents

Some of our original workshops were supplemented by follow-up support groups, where women could share their personal problems and struggles, and come up with their own solutions. These support groups offered them a space to tackle such challenges as finding jobs and places to live, explore living with HIV and the the difficult behaviour of their children who had been raped; death of their husbands and unemployment.

These parents involved in these groups have reported feeling more effective in their parenting skills and being more able to be involved in the education of their children.

Lessons learnt and way forward:

Rather than just offering support to the children themselves, we believe that our added attention in helping parents and caregivers in their support of their children’s development through workshops and support groups has made a significant difference to the children themselves. As we encourage caregivers to take an active role in the development of the children in their care, we see the children take initiative in their own learning.

Our adult workshops and groups, for example, have resulted in changed attitudes towards the children; increased energy levels for being involved in their lives (mainly as a result of the depression support group, and the children and parents camp); as well as an increase in the parents’ confidence to speak and read in English through the literacy group. As a result, parents seem to be more eager to participate in their children’s education, and this support has had a positive impact on the self-esteem of both parents and children alike.

Moving forward and based on our gains so far, we would like to see more holistic programmes such as ours that support children in all areas of their lives. We would like to see communities that value parents as educators and that encourage a culture of being involved in their children’s education from babyhood to adulthood. We would like to influence government policy in the care of orphans and vulnerable children so that there is more funding available for intentional research and the implementation of programmes that support children within their communities, as well as the people who care for them. 


Imizamo Yethu, Hout Bay

 (021) 712 8414

In Short

Learn how iKhaya le themba is working with the community to provide a holistic programme of social support and educational development for children and families from disadvantaged backgrounds or affected by HIV/Aids.

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