iKwezi, the flagship education development project hosted by the Schools Development Unit at the University of Cape Town, has received a R100 000 donation from Metrofile Holdings Limited to assist in the second phase of its early childhood development (ECD) and primary school intervention aimed at improving educational outcomes of disadvantaged children in the Western Cape.
According to Graham Wackrill, Chief Executive Officer at Metrofile Holdings Limited, ensuring a quality education is provided to the youth of South Africa is a cause the company takes very seriously. “In order to address the growing skills shortage and high levels of unemployment in the country, it is necessary to start at the basic level of education.”
International research indicates that children who start school from a disadvantaged background have at least a 1.5 year delay at the start of schooling, with these gaps generally not being consolidated, according to iKwezi.
iKwezi – an isiXhosa term meaning star – is a three year ‘whole school’ intervention programme that focuses on the learning foundations of young children with the aim to strengthen language and mathematics skills from the start so that the children achieve excellence in higher grades and beyond.
In partnership with the Western Cape Metropole Education Districts North and East, iKwezi Phase 1 – the pilot project – currently runs in nine primary schools and six of their feeder community ECD sites in the Mfuleni and Lwandle areas with preliminary results indicating that learners are showing significant improvement in basic concepts.
Metrofile’s donation will go towards iKwezi Phase II, which involves the expansion of the project to Khayelitsha – the biggest settlement in the Western Cape Province – where children face everyday social challenges such as poverty and poor access to services.
Dr Jonathan Clark, Schools Development Unit Director, reports that National and Provincial learner testing indicates that performance on standardised Grade 3 and 6 tests is well below the expected norm, with a very high percentage of learners failing to achieve even minimum standards of numeracy and literacy. Against this backdrop of low performance and concern about how to address this problem, the iKwezi project identifies the very earliest entry point into the schooling system – Grade R and Grade 1 – as the point at which mitigation needs to occur.
“Reasons for low levels of performance can be linked back to failed efforts to incorporate Grade R into the formal schooling system and the lack of clear requirements of teacher qualifications for Grade R, resulting in many teachers who apply for such posts in the Foundation Phase of primary schools not even meeting the minimum requirements of a Matric + three year teaching qualification. Therefore, the majority of teachers in the Foundation Phase (Gr R – 3) are under qualified and many teachers do not have the necessary content and pedagogic knowledge to deliver the Language and Mathematics curriculum,” says Cally Kuhne, the iKwezi Project Leader.
The iKwezi project aims to build Grade R to 6 teacher capacity, integrate community site Grade R and Primary School Grade R and 1 teachers through project Language and Mathematics training programmes, encourage teachers to create learning environments that will support and extend children’s development and learning, and assist ECD community centres and feeder Primary Schools to create a positive, supportive community of practice.
“The project is called iKwezi because we envisage each primary school as a beacon or star, which will serve as a hub for coordinating and integrating efforts to improve the lives of children in these communities,” says Kuhne.
“Every child has the right to quality education, and the foundation years are most crucial as it sets the basis for development of future personal and career-orientated goals. Therefore, providing assistance to better ensure children living in challenging environments will receive the right tools to learn and grow is vital,” concludes Wackrill.