June 2021.

A parent literacy programme to support children’s learning in their homes has been launched in partnership with fourteen schools, across Humansdorp, Hankey, Patensie and Jeffreys Bay, in response to unprecedented learning loss directly caused by ongoing rotational attendance and school closures, over the last eighteen months.

Studies showed that learners in the lower grades forfeited approximately 60% of their schooling, which has added further downward pressure on the already stressed literacy levels of the country. This strain has been particularly felt in no-fee Eastern Cape schools, which found that Grade 2 learners experienced a learning loss of 53% in reading fluency between 2019 and 2020.

“Our programme is informed by studies that show that serious learning loss can be mitigated if parents/caregivers are involved in supporting their children’s reading, not only in the early years, but throughout the schooling years. In addition, parental/caregiver involvement is a more powerful factor in reading achievement than parent education or socio-economic level,” said Tsholofelo Moote, Economic Development Practitioner for Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm, which is funding this programme.

The programme, called TIME – Together in My Education, is a national programme that is offered to learners in Grade R and Grade 1 (in English, Afrikaans and isiXhosa) that seeks to build the foundational language, mathematics and life skills in young children and is being implemented by ITEC.

The programme promotes and encourages parents to tell stories, rhymes and sing along songs as part of their daily 20 minute sessions with their children. It requires that parents/caregivers spend quality time with their children, informed by a carefully structured programme and is intended to encourage a home culture where routine learning time is established with positive long-term impact on children’s self-directed learning. Furthermore, parents/caregivers and Reading Assistants, who are part of the wind farm’s literacy programme, can access TIME on their cell phones, using free data access via the Moyo App.

“Even if parents or caregivers feel that they do not have the qualifications to assist their children at home, they can play an important role in supporting children’s early learning since the programme offers a simple set of easy mini lessons.

Learners are also encouraged to borrow a book from the classroom library book stock, supplied by the Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm, through the Reading Assistants programme, to augment their reading “for pleasure” programme.
“The parents and caregivers of our fourteen participating schools are excited and have embraced the programme with much enthusiasm. They are currently working through Term One curriculum and will soon move onto Term 2 Curriculum,” concluded Tsholofelo Moote.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, close to 80% of our country’s children were struggling with reading, according to the PIRLS Literacy 2016 study, which showed that South African children were six years behind top performing countries.