Hello from Khanyisela, Royal Drakensberg Primary and BabyBoost – jointly this is PROJECT amaZizi Reads. amaZizi Reads is a collective initiative to provide educational experiences that ultimately promote literacy development. And so, we share some of our latest happenings within Khanyisela, BabyBoost, all of which is supported by the admin heart & hub of Royal Drakensberg. Many hands making a significant and meaningful impact.
What began as the “Bread Fund” many years ago, continues as the porridge donation thanks to Retford Rotary Club in the UK. And, the monthly deliveries of this fortified porridge with Teacher Thoba are a delight!
Changes & Upgrades
Upgrading, changing and renovating helps create beautiful spaces for learning. We are very grateful to our partners that continue to assist with improvements to the 18 schools we support. We have had kitchen cupboards added, partitions created, toilets built and roofs fixed. Creating spaces that are a little bit “wow” helps improve the learning experience because they are often brighter, more welcoming and attendance often improves too. Parents are more willing to support schools that are well organised and well run and this has a positive impact on the women that run them because they rely on the small fees to make their own living.
The Little Gecko
Introducing Yo.T and The Little Gecko – what is behind it?
There is an increasing amount of research supporting mindfulness as a means of children developing emotional regulation. There is also a shifting mindset that our mental health is largely based on the arousal state of our nervous systems. We are so aware that children learn through play and what better way to do this than to create stories to use as scaffolds for meeting our different yoga poses, that have an OT objective, as characters?
The first story, written by Rachel Cary, is one of a little gecko, who has to embark on a journey to find his tail. The story of gecko is one of bravery and of self-belief when you are feeling afraid and overwhelmed and the characters he meets along the way are all included in the yoga course as postures, developed with Helen Garner Weaver, and each offers characteristics that allows us to work on different developmental skills.
From balance, through to using both sides of the body together in a synchronised way, from dissociating our head and eye movements through to weight bearing through our upper limbs for better shoulder stability – these are all foundation skills that we work on in OT and which children need to learn and practice playfully to be successful at school and with the demands of the classroom.
And so we have rolled out the Little Gecko, in isiZulu, to our small schools in amaZizi, offering children the opportunity to start each day with this story-based yoga, mindfully, connected to their own bodies in the present moment, and repeating an affirmation of bravery that can change the way that their brains are wired; helping them to achieve a calm-alert state for learning. As well as to prepare their bodies physically as a foundation to later learning.
The Little Gecko program has taken the creches by storm. With Teacher Torin aka Malum’ Vusi, as he is fondly known by the children, bringing fun as he teaches them about their bodies and mindfulness. Though there has been no resistance from the teachers in the creches, the children have been the champions in this story. Contorting their malleable little bodies with ease and remembering the postures and routines, they have been instrumental in keeping the program going through sheer excitement and enjoyment. Teacher Torin has designed a check in plan for the creches to ensure that we are able to monitor the continuation of the program. He has availed himself to be consulted on any challenges that may arise and we look forward to having him back in October to check on our progress.
Thank you, Retford Rotary – UK, for the wonderful donation of knitwear for this winter season! Boxes were shipped with the kind help of Britannia Movers and arrived safely in the Drakensberg just in time for the cold snap. Most items have been distributed but we have kept a few smaller pieces for our upcoming BabyBoost sessions.
Jumble & Donations
Lightly used clothing, books, games and linen are a gift to our community. On your next visit to the area, please drop off donations at The Cavern, Montusi Mountain Lodge or All Out Adventures. The clothing and linen is sold at very reasonable prices while the books and games are sorted and donated to schools in the area.
Training & Mentoring
Teacher mentoring and training has been a priority and we have worked collaboratively to share ideas and grow knowledge. We extend our thanks to the Royal Drakensberg teachers that have so willingly helped grow ideas for a range of themes and for sharing these, together with lovely resources, with the Khanyisela practitioners.
BabyBoost was developed by Dr Marysia Nash and comprises 5 information workshops, 10 playgroups and a few home visits. Here we are focusing on the first 1000 days and we’re helping mothers and carers become responsive care-givers, stimulating the important neurological pathways, aiding development and providing toys and books to the homes.
This year a very special delivery arrived; the new BabyBoost manual. This wonderful resource, professionally published, thanks to Dr Marysia Nash & OxEd and Assessment Ltd has assisted our local facilitators deliver the course content confidently. And we were very fortunate to have a visit from Marysia & Ailsa in March. They arrived loaded with toys and books from Scotland. 4 large suitcases, more than 80kgs of joy! Many knitted dollies and teddies with outfits that can be changed, adding to the educational value of play and assisting with the development of language.
Miss Sine reports; “With only a few more months left until the end of year and having completed 1 successful workshop thus far; the BabyBoost team is well into number 2, at Sivukile, and number 3, at Mpumelelo. With an attendance of 16 carers and babies the coaching sessions are blooming at Sivukile. It is at these sessions that carers are taught how to play, sing, talk to and cuddle their babies. At Mpumelelo we are sitting on an attendance of 8 carers and babies and it is at this creche that we are about to finish the programme and those that have attended all sessions and playgroups, as per the BabyBoost criteria set in our recently modified manual, will be awarded certificates and gifts at the prize giving. It is through BabyBoost that we try reach out to the greater community and educate parents on the importance of the first thousand days of a child’s life. The feedback we have been receiving from past members shows that we are a step in the right direction.”
Empowering Children in AmaZizi through Community Reading
AmaZizi Reads also runs a community reading program that plays a role in Book Dash’s primary vision that “every child should own a hundred books by the age of five”. The teachers from Royal Drakensberg Primary School attend a crèche weekly to read to children from the surrounding area. In term 2 they read at Ekukhanyeni and this term they are reading at Sivuleleni. AmaZizi Reads aims to bring the joy of reading and its educational benefits to underserved areas. Not only do these reading sessions foster a love for reading but they also enhance vocabulary, comprehension, and critical thinking skills. As we continue to support and expand this program, we move one step closer to empowering more children to reach their full potential
Ambani Africa is an award winning EdTech solution company that merges technology and learning in indigenous languages. In a two-month pilot study, they have partnered with five Khanyisela Pre-schools namely Sibusisiwe, Mpumeleo, Sivukile, Samukelokuhle and Siqalakahle. They have implemented the use of tablets and projectors, which have all their isiZulu content from games, to songs and stories.
“Since Ambani gave us the equipment there’s a lot of change. Kids are positive, always looking forward to the next lesson. Kids are now giving more attention and good participation during music time. We would like Ambani to make more music and stories especially because they get to learn new words via stories and singing. The level of concentration is on another level”, Jemina Malinga (Supervisor and ECD practitioner, Sibusisiwe)
A Final Word from Teacher Thoba
The phrase “To whom much is given, much is expected”, has always been associated with means. Particularly financial means. This can be frightening in this volatile financial climate where those who “need” continue to outnumber those who do not. As we still recover from the COVID crises, each term seems to reveal new deficits caused by the pandemic.
Demands for the basics continue to increase, which almost mocks our striving to provide quality education for our most vulnerable; children in rural spaces. Our global village, however, continues to show us that children of AmaZizi do not just belong to a geographical point in Northern KwaZulu Natal but to the world.
It is their generosity that reveals to us that the phrase “To whom much is given….”, does not refer to means but rather refers to passion. It is those with a passion for change that have continued to support our endeavours of bringing quality education to even the most remote areas. Creating global citizens with brighter futures.
See our new Khanyisela video
Our best wishes,