Creative Learners

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Learning Brief


Ikhaya Le Themba

Literacy support for children in Hout Bay

Category: Creative Learners | Reading Promotion | 31 August, 2012 - 15:18

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iKhaya le themba

Learning Brief

The Challenges:

iKhaya le themba was founded in 2003 by Kenilworth Vineyard Church at the invitiation of local communtiy 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 vulnerable for other reasons.  Through conversations with the community it was identified that After School Care was the most appropriate way to provide this assistance.  In addition the community identified the need for their children, and also for them as parents, to be competent in reading and writing English as well as Xhosa, their home language.  The reading program at iKhaya le themba was one of our first programs and continues to be a core element to our functioning. 

The work of iKhaya le themba is very much a response to the national crisis in care and education of children from disadvantaged backgrounds.  However, whilst the crisis is national, our focus if very local.  We listen intently to our community through structured and unstructured forums including a month long consultation on community needs earlier this year, regular parent meetings and participation in local forums.  We believe that if we can do excellent work in our community that we will be able to replicate it in other communities.  We would love to see iKhaya le themba in many places in South Africa.

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.  The traditional form of care for orphans has been orphan homes and group foster homes.  There are several reasons why this type of care is not always the best solution.  Primarily, 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.  Rather, the 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 lives of children.

It is from this standpoint that models such as iKhaya le themba are being developed.  iKhaya le themba offers 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 try to offer a program to the children and families that is integrated and multi facetted.  Always we remember that children must feel safe to learn well and must learn well to continue to be safe. 

The Strategy & Outcomes:

Support at iKhaya le themba takes two forms.  Firstly we have a community worker who visits with the families and other services involved with the child, acting as a link between all parties and ensuring that the interests of the child are best served.  Secondly we provide these children with a safe place to play, learn and grow in 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.

Our community worker, Mhinti Pato, provides the necessary connections between home, school and our service.  When families are under strain these connections become even more important for the child who needs to feel their world is safe and under control.  Sadly when the family is under strain, these connections are difficult to maintain.  Mhinti provides the connections and support through an ongoing presence at the school, family visiting, participation in the children’s programs and workshops for parents. 

At iKhaya le themba we see that children are often not reaching their learning potential.  We see that this is due to the following problems:

1. Parents who are poorly educated struggle to support their children’s learning

2. Schools that are under strain due to over crowding and lack of resources are unable to create a safe and supporting learning environment for children or 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 then 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 aftercare centre from the school

4. Create a safe learning environment at our programs 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 lifeskills 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 in children:

  • Increased self confidence, ability to express ideas, leadership potential of children
  • Increased curiosity and willingness to learn
  • Increase 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
  • Increase 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:
We have implemented 3 programs with our funding from DG Murray which we recieved in June 2011.

1. After School Care with educational and literacy focus for 50 children at least 3 afternoons/week during school term.

At the end of 2011 we had a total of 90 children registered with us, of which 83 children passed their grade and 7 failed. This results in a pass rate of 92 %. Reasons for those who failed include:

  • Change of school mid-year, including those needing to transfer to special needs schools
  • Parent denial to issues needing change (currently being addressed by our community workers)
  • Anger and depression issues currently being addressed with good results.

We are still waiting for all the school reports for the first term of 2012, so will report on this progress later.

2. School based support through remedial classses and promoting links between school, home and iKhaya.

O3. Quarterly workshops and follow on support groups for parents

There were a number of workshops held during this funding period:

a. Adult Literacy: There are 2 groups: beginner & intermediate (8 participants in each). There were 8 sessions per group and participants reported increased confidence and fluency in spoken and written English and were encouraged to be more involved in their children’s education.

b. Food Gardening

c. Parent & Child Camp – 4 Parent With Courage workshops where parents and carers reported gaining tools to aid them in developing their parenting skills and supporting their children. 

d. Brain Development: 5 workshops  were attended by 9 parents. Parents of 0-6 year olds learned how to play with children to stimulate development. 

e. Depression  support group: Dr Simone Honikam from Perinatal Mental Health Project presented our original workshop and Sylke Funk, Social Worker, ran the followup support groups.  The support groups were a place where women could share about their personal problems and their struggles.  They encouraged each other to face those problems and come out with better solutions. 

Implications:

As we approach the end of our first year of funding we are eager to see the reporting implications as they develop within our community.

We feel that iKhaya le themba has successfully supported families in caring for children who are orphaned and vulnerable.  The number of children has grown to 106 as we began our after school care program in 2012, with children from grade 1 – 8 attending Mondays to Fridays. We believe that our added attention in aiding parents and carers 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 carers to take an active role in the development of the children in their care, we see the children take initiative in their own learning. This is very encouraging for us.

It is becoming more apparent as we have increased our support to the parents and carers of our children, that supporting families in growing in involvement in their children's education is vital to the work we do at iKhaya le themba. Our adult groups have resulted in changed attitude towards the children and increased energy levels for being involved in their child’s life (mainly as a result of the depression support group, and the children and parents camp) and also an increase in parent confidence to speak and read in English through the literacy group. Parent’s seem to be more eager to participate in their children’s education, and this support has had an impact on self esteem of both parents and children alike.

As an educational support, we also feel that iKhaya le themba has been successful.   The outcomes of our reading program continue to be positive and the children are eager to read and progress.  Our belief is that helping children to view learning positively is our most significant outcome and the one most likely to promote a lifelong openness to both educational and life lessons.  The move of our Community Worker into the classroom to aid teachers with remedial work, as well as the workshop attended by staff from the school and iKhaya le themba,  has also brought a new dimension of educational support as our relationship with the schools continue to strengthen. This relationship is important to us and vital to the children’s educational development.

We would like to see more holistic programs like ours that support children in all areas of their lives.  We would like to see schools that are a supportive and integrated environment that are well resourced with not only programs but also capacity to care for all the needs of children.  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 implementation of programs that support children within their communities.

Contact Details:

Katherine Morse

www.ikhayalethemba.com

ikhayalethemba@gmail.com

076 255 5958/ 021 791 6060

 


Imizamo Yethu, Hout Bay


 (021) 712 8414


 www.ikhayalethemba.com


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