A LEARNER reads with a facilitator from the Masinyusane organisation. Masinyusane, based in the Eastern Cape, has helped children who have fallen behind in their education by at least a year to stay afloat. | Masinyusane.
A LEARNER reads with a facilitator from the Masinyusane organisation. Masinyusane, based in the Eastern Cape, has helped children who have fallen behind in their education by at least a year to stay afloat. | Masinyusane.

After School campaign helps vulnerable children recover from the pandemic

By MaryAnne Isaac Time of article published Oct 7, 2021

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THE Learning Trust together with Community Chest Western Cape and the Youth and After School Programme Office, Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport, have joined hands to implement the second Lights On After School campaign to help children affected by the pandemic.

According to the Investment Case report released earlier this year by the Learning Trust, children in 2020 learned between 50 and 75% less than children in 2019.

Moreover, the latest National Income Dynamics Study – Coronavirus Rapid Mobile (Nids-cram) – survey indicates that up to 750 000 learners had dropped out of school during the pandemic, about three times the pre-pandemic level.

“Learning gaps are not new. We have long left many young people behind with every year of schooling, leading to grade repetition and dropout. Covid’s trail of destruction has only deepened these learning losses.

“Catch-up intervention is therefore critical, and this is where the After School Programme (ASP) sector proves pivotal in improving learning outcomes and nurturing holistic development,” says Sibongile Khumalo, executive director of The Learning Trust.

Khumalo points out that inequality and the massive digital skills divide in South Africa has been a consistent driver of grade repetition and dropout. She also emphasised the role of ASPs in meeting learners where they are, and not where they should be based on age and grade.

“After school programmes provide learners with resources and skills they otherwise would not have access to, and they can do so in a safe, non-judgemental environment. No learner should have to drop out of school, and it certainly should not have to take an average of 15 years for any child to complete matric,” she adds.

This year’s Lights On After School campaign will extend beyond ASPs and will engage in conversations on how after school programmes can form part of the formal education workforce, especially as part of the recovery from the pandemic, and additional time needed for learning.

The campaign welcomes the support of community and developmental organisations, educational institutions, policy and advocacy entities, as well as donor partners.

School closures during lockdown have compromised the progress of reading and language skills in learners, especially those who come from vulnerable backgrounds. Education and literacy experts have predicted that lost learning time will have a devastating impact on school attendance, which is why Khumalo believes after-school literacy programmes are a fundamental intervention.

One such programme is the YearBeyond 1000 stories project to address the fact that 78% of children in South Africa cannot read for meaning by the age of 10.

The programme employs young interns to facilitate reading sessions at ECD centres, as well as primary schools across eight towns in Theewaterskloof Municipality in the Western Cape. Each child gets a “reading passport” that gets stamped every time they read a book, encouraging them to read 100 books a year.

For more information on how to get involved, visit Lights On campaign

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