Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Teacher still cares

Yesterday morning at 8:30am promptly Cecilia, a grade 3 teacher from Lehutsu Primary school from Sasolburg travelled by taxi to honour an appointment she asked for with Jocelyn Gulston, a trainer at READ. Cecilia called Jocelyn asking her to assist her with additional traing so that come 2011 she would be the best educator she can be for her students.

Jocelyn was more than happy to assist an educator who shows such passion for the work she does and cares so deeply for the children in her school. Cecelia expected nothing in return and yet spent her own money on travelling and meal costs to come and learn from one of READ's experienced trainers.

Cecelia making teaching aids to take back with her for her classroom next year
The two ladies worked the entire morning until late in the afternoon with Cecelia learning new and innovative ways to engage her students in her lessons.

Cecelia has taken change into her own hands. We are glad to see that there are teachers who want to see change happen in our schools and understand that READ is always ready and willing to assist where they can.

Making a difference one class at a time

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Primary and Secondary education in South Africa

Primary and Secondary education in South Africa

School life of young South Africans spans over 13 years or grades. The first year of education, grade R(reception year), is not compulsory, Grade 10,11and 12 are also not compulsory. Usually enroll into grade 1 at the age of six and a half. In South Africa the school year starts in mid-January and ends at the end of November or the beginning of December.

 The average learner-to-educator ratio schools was 31.5:1 ranging from 28.9:1 in the Free Sate to 33.2:1 in Limpopo. Private Schools generally have one teacher for every 20 scholars.

The gross enrollment ration for primary and secondary schools was 94 percent in 2007; this ratio is somewhat smaller when grade R is taken into consideration, because few parents register their children for the reception grade. The department of Education hopes to have grade R in all primary schools by 2010.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Gauteng Primary Literacy Strategy

Read Educational Trust is participating in the Gauteng Primary Literacy Strategy that is being rolled out in underperfoming schools across the province from January 2011 until 2014. Sixteen trainers from READ will be responsible for the training of 965 foundation phase teachers at 129 schools in the Johannesburg South, Sedibeng East and West districts.

In preparation for their training lessons for Grade 1 were prepared by the newly appointed trainers. These lessons were informed by the new Heights teacher's guide provided (My Family)

The relevant teaching aids i.e. vocabulary/sight words and phonic charts were prepared and evaluated by project leaders (Senior Trainers) to insure consistent and uniform material.

A trainer shows presents her work during a training session with senior trainers
The objective of the presentations is to allow the new trainers to gain confidence in themselves and their work. This also allows them the opportunity to learn from each other before they go out into the field nest year.

Trainers prepares her material for her lessons

The alphabet made easy
Looks like these trainers are well on their way to being ready. wishing them all the best of luck for the task ahead.

Learning made fun

Hi all

Blogger has seen fun innovative ways of teaching in the READ training rooms. We've discussed the importance of making the learning a experience a fun one, I've found fun and easy ways that may help you along.

Yesterday I sat in briefly during a traing session at READ. They made it look fun but it certainly isn't easy making sure that your children remain captivated and enjoy the entire lesson.

Riette Els was teaching her colleagues ways to interact and teach children at (Early Childhood Development) ECD level, if you thought little personalities were a handful you might want to think again, these trainers where so full of energy I thought the room would start spinning.

Riette's students after completing an exercise
Students present their three elements of nature as required by the given task  
I sat in on an exercise and one fast realizes that so much can be done with what we have around us. They used egg shells to grow been seeds. When children get frustrated there are child friendly ways to release their frustrations. They showed me how to use bright sponges filled with water that can be throw against a wall without breaking anything and creating an awesome splash of water.

Water soaked sponges and egg shells have 101 uses

Next week blogger will talk you through the lesson and the objectives of each exercise.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Bold schools fix it plan

In a bid to improve the quality of education and matric results, the Gauteng government unveiled a bold plan for government schools, staring in the new year.

Designed by Education MEC Barbara  Creecy, the move has massive implications for pupils, teachers and parents.

In terms of the plan:

  • Grade 3, 6 and 9 pupils will write a standardised national test that will determine their knowledge of numeracy and literacy so that areas of weakness can be identified earlier and rectified before Grade 12
  • All schools will approach the curriculum standardised fashion, covering the same areas at the same time. 
  • 5000 teachers will be trained throughout the year in the curriculum
  • Parents will have to attend induction classes at the start of the school year. Schools reopen January 12, and the induction programme will be held on January 8 and 9.

Creey said this was to get parents to take more responsibility for their children's education and would serve to inform them about the year ahead, what was expected of them as their children.

Speaking at a special briefing of editors, Creecy painted a bleak picture of the state of education in the province. According to the latest figures only 30 percent of grade 3s are literate and just over 40 percent pass maths, while slightly more than 50 percent are literate.

At high school level, about 50 percent of children can't read or write, so it is difficult for the department to get the matric results up.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Make learning fun

If you’ve been teaching students, young and old alike, you have probably encountered the greatest drawback in teaching history – boredom. Boredom can be a teacher’s greatest insult.

Imagine having to stand in front of a number of students, you’ve been talking on end, and your students aren’t listening. You start to think if you’re the reason why they’re bored. Maybe you are the one who’s boring and not the topic. More often than not, it is the approach to learning, and not you that’s making learning boring.
Making learning fun is an art as much as it is a practice. It is a practice because it requires a skilled and knowledgeable teacher with the right attitude to teach a number of students and to teach them well. It is an art because it sparks your imagination; it opens up your creativity, and makes use of your talents to make it fun as well as knowledgeable.

Children at Kwa-Thema Creche enjoying reading time with one of the READ trainers

 Making learning fun doesn't mean having the best resources but rather making the best of the resources you have at your disposal. One can start by incorporating lively examples in your lessons. These examples must be relevant to the students you are teaching. Giving examples that are relevant to them stimulates their brains.

Making learning fun also entails that students have to feel rewarded from the lessons they are observing. Generate interesting and open-ended questions that require their brains to think of an answer, rather than a simple yes or no question.

Come up with games that incorporate the lesson for the day in it.Games allow students to apply what they have learned into real situations and are great evaluative tools for teachers.The best secret in getting student to enjoy lessons is in making them hungry for knowledge and the battle is half won.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Government plans to resource libraries fully

In September 2010, Dr J.C Kloppers Lourens (DA) asked the minister of basic education whether the Government has taken any steps to resource school libraries fully.

In her reply the minster was asked to address plans and proposed time lines for her department to provide every school in the country with a (i) properly equipped library and (ii) trained school librarian.

Children from schools in and around Soweto surrounded by books at a READ-CNA in-store reading.
In her reply the minister pointed out that this is something the department had been working on To address the infrastructure provisioning holistically two significant documents have  been developed namely the: 

  • National Policy for an Equitable Provision of an Enabling School Physical Teaching and Learning Environment. Through this policy, the department says it will realize the provision of all essential spaces and facilities, including school libraries. This policy is to be followed by the Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure. 
  • National School Library and Information Services Guidelines. Through these guidelines provision and support of libraries in the system will be addressed.
In terms of the Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure all new schools will have libraries. National Treasury has allocated an additional R2b for the next two financial years to provide libraries, laboratories and grade R classrooms 2011 and 2012. This amount is over and above the infrastructure budget allocated to provinces. The department is said to be in the process of developing a strategy that aims to accelerate the delivery of schools infrastructure and more specifically, aimed at the improvement of existing  schools infrastructure to achieve Optimum Functionality level in targeted schools infrastructure  within the 2010-2014 Strategic Plan Period and beyond. The targets related to this initiative are being finalised. From their budgets this year, provinces are meant to be providing 146 libraries to new and existing schools.

The minister added that the provision of teacher librarians would have to be made within the context of broad post provision according to priority needs.

We trust government will deliver on the said targets and that all children will have access to the ultimate windows of the world...Books

Friday, October 15, 2010

Field of dreams- Contribution by Derek Smith

Random acts of kindness usually have the most charming results which brings more joy to the giver than to the receiver. Last week the following chain of events left me with a feel good experience that still makes me smile.
First the back-story:
This year READ is distributing 1 000 blank journals as part of the 2010 Readathon Campaign with the following message;
“This journal is on a Journey – and we would like you to be part of it.
One thousand journals, like this one, are traveling from one person to the next throughout South Africa. Those who find them will add their stories and drawings, and then pass the journal on to someone else until the whole journal is filled.
We want you to use photos, cartoons, drawings, sketches, collage or poems to tell your story. It is all about you, who you are, where you are, what you are thinking, wanting or doing. Pen or pencil, crayon or paint. Just write something about yourself and what you do.”
These journals should, when full, be handed in at a CNA store. The best entries will be judged and published as part of a journal reflecting South African life in 2010. The idea behind this campaign is to recognize the value of writing in functional literacy. 
The other part of the story was me nagging the love of my life to pose for a photograph, something she hates with a passion;
Girl’s daughter bought her an exquisite antique hand-embroidered Bedouin dress at the Jaffa Flea Market in Tel Aviv many moons ago. For years it’s hung in the cupboard hardly ever being worn. I bought a nifty little photo-sampler Lomography camera a while ago which really relies on the alchemy of photography with four little plastic lenses firing in quick succession on 35mm film. I pleaded for days on end until Her Royal Highness sighed, flounced off, putting on the dress so that I could take some photographs in front of a mosaic in our garden. I thought the contrasting colours will work well in lomo.
Afterward this momentous photo-shoot Girl said she might as well get rid of the dress as she will never wear it again. I suggested that we either have cushion covers made of the embroidered pieces or donate it to “Bounty Hunters Charity Shop” close to our home.  But that would have been a sad waste as the dress would be special to someone that could appreciate it for what it is - a coat of many colours.     
I was quite happy with the photos and posted two on my Flickr site which then lead to the following chain of events;  
On 7 September the first person posting a comment remarked;
“Oh my gosh, I SO BADLY want that outfit. I love the business of the Bedouin against the mosaic...it works here!”
When I read this I knew that karma was at play and that the dress has found a new home. I phoned Girl and asked her if I could offer it as a surprise gift which she was quite happy to do.
On 8 September I replied;

“Surprise, surprise……! You can have it. My partner got this many years ago as a gift when her daughter went to Israel and she’s actually never wore it. We don’t know what to do with it and was thinking of getting someone to make cushion covers for us, using the dress.
Let me have your address and I’ll send it to you.”
Shortly thereafter I received an answer;

Oh my goodness....I literally screamed when I read your mail. You have NO idea, how much this means to me. I too am a great believer that things happen as they should.”

I obtained the address. This was in Vanderbijlpark,  which is close to Jozi and I couriered it the next day.  I slipped one of “Journals on a Journey” in which I wrote an entry about the garment into the package. The parcel was delivered the same afternoon.
I then received the following e-mail:
I already have my dress on. One of the girls in my office is currently in tears...she is so touched by the story. The book, the writing in it, the concept... I cannot stop smiling. I cannot stop thinking about how I am going to pass the book on and make someone else as happy as you have made me. I cannot stop thanking you...
And the dress was made for me in every sense of the word.
 THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK you a million times over!
 PS  I was looking for a way to end my 52 week project and you gave it to me...
 Love and blessings and peace to you both!!!!!!!!!!!
I cannot say thank you enough.
When the book comes back you will see all the symbolism that has come with the dress for me...the positive energy and blessing through both your kindnesses”
I didn’t know what this 52-week project was all about until I saw the following photographs on Flickr with their comments:


“Earlier this week I saw a photo of a Bedouin Dress on Flickr. What followed after I commented on the pic and the dress is nothing short of awesome.
Not long after the comment I got an email. To cut a  long story short a day later I got the dress and an added bonus -  a journal called, “Journal on a Journey” ...there are a 1000 copies...of which I have one in my hands...each person write their thoughts, wishes etc., and then pass it on to the next person to add their photos, drawings...etc....

I think this is such an inspiring idea and I'm ever so thankful for being involved

“My 52 weeks of self-portraits is ended by random strangers who did a small deed that to me meant a massive amount.  I feel blessed and lucky to have received such a wonderful surprise. I got this beautiful beyond words Bedouin dress in a package
It feels like I have been chosen to be part of something...along with the beyond beautiful Bedouin dress there was a "Journal on a Journey" inside the box. When I opened and read it my heart skipped a few beats and i still have not been able to stop smiling. Not only because the dress is amazing, but because i have been touched by kindness.
So I end my 52 weeks project on a complete high. I wanted to portray the feeling of freedom and lightness that i am experiencing...and I cannot wait to send my Journal on its journey.”
And so the circle of life continues. Karma at play.
I know there some repetition in the comments but I’m leaving it as is otherwise otherwise the spontaneity will be lost in translation
I love it when a plan comes together and I’m sure this dress will be worn with joy and that its history will be told many times over. I also hope that the journal will complete its journey and that I’ll have the privilege of seeing it again.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

World teacher's day

Dear teacher

Today is your day. It is not everyday that we show appreciation for our teachers. You are not only educators, you are caretakers, parents, providers, protectors and so much more. You play such a huge role in the grooming of our children as well as the future of our country. We salute you and the work you do.

We salute you for caring for our nation!
Each day the fate of 12 000 000 young people is put in your hands. You deserve great respect!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tribute to Cynthia- Contribution

Tribute to Cynthia

I think that I am the oldest person at READ and have worked here for many many years so I can claim to have known Cynthia the longest. Also our friendship started even before Cynthia thought of READ.
So first I want to talk about Cynthia as a friend. All this time she has been a true friend and a great comfort and support in times of trouble, not only to me but to all who have come to her for help. She has done whatever she can to see us through some of our life shattering struggles.  So Cynthia as a friend is very important to me. There are other aspects that I want to talk about as well.

Cynthia as a person with vision: Her vision for READ a long time ago became reality because she put determination together with her dynamic personality. She was determined to do whatever she could to help the underprivileged children of SA develop their potential and get people to help her achieve this.
The first project I worked on with Cynthia was to put reference libraries into high schools in Soweto and we needed money for the books.  I will always remember Eve Jammy , the manager of Exclusive Books at the time saying that yes, of course the business community would listen to Cynthia and provide the funds because Cynthia  was so dynamic and convincing and believed passionately  in what she was doing. And this proved to be true as we know. In all my years at READ this determination to do what she can for the children of SA has meant that many more ambitious projects like the Business Trust have been a great success
 During our work in the high school libraries about 25 years ago I will never forget the fright we gave a little two year old boy who took one look at us and screamed-we were the first white people this child had ever seen.  He bravely overcame his fear though when we gave him some sweets and quite liked us in the end though he wasn’t quite sure what we were.

Cynthia as a developer of people: One of the qualities I most admire in Cynthia as a person is that she always sees potential in other people and gives us opportunities to grow.  The very first time I came to READ Cynthia wanted some flowers arranged. From this she somehow saw hidden abilities and I then went on to do many different jobs for READ. Cynthia has always been delighted with the success of all whom work at READ and very proud of our achievements.  You just had to say that you wanted to try to do something and she would be so glad to let you have a go and her confidence gave us confidence too.

Cynthia as an intellectual: Cynthia has recognized the importance of working with world renowned experts in literacy like Professor Elley who introduced the book flood, Edie Garvey who taughtus the value of working with stories and Shelley Harwyn, a famous American teacher of creative writing and more recently Sue Ellis who gave us a wonderful workshop on using a small selection of excellent books to inspire children to read and write.  So many people like this have visited READ through the years and their vision together with Cynthia ‘s ability to use their work, has helped READ develop into a respected literacy organization and kept us in the mainstream of world literacy research and development.

Cynthia as an artist: When I look around at the beautiful READ building that looks like an art gallery I think of Cynthia as an artist. She has an eye for art with the wonderful prints and colours we see every day. The art and architecture of this building show us that you are an artist.  Thank you for making our working environment so lovely.
The combination of friendship, vision, generosity to develop others, intellectual and artistic ability all put together make Cynthia into a truly amazing person and this has been proved by her achievements through READ for the children of SA. I think we will all try our best to make Cynthia proud of us through continuing where she has left off and doing whatever we can for the children who need us more than ever.

Bettine Nixon

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Dear Teacher

Welcome to your zone. This month in the Zone we celebrate a woman who had a vision for literacy for all South Africans and has worked tirelessly towards that goal. We pay tribute to Cynthia Hugo who has recently retired as National Director of READ Educational Trust.

Halala Ms. Hugo Halala