I remember ‘pretend’ play as a child. Sometimes alone, murmuring quietly to myself in a story, slipping through characters and time, being whoever I wanted to be and making things happen in ways that were larger and brighter than life. Or with my sister, moving in an enchanted space where I would be the princess and she, being the youngest, would have to jump at my every request. Like all children, we would spend hours weaving the raw material of our experiences into compelling play, where at once we would make sense of and escape from our real world. And the raw material included five books a week for each of us, borrowed on bicycles at the local library and read to us by our mom and Ouma. So play, nourished as it was by a treasury of stories, fairytales and poems, opened windows to adventures in imagination, language and thinking.
Do you ever wonder whether free play, and the stories that feed it, is actually significant for learning? Or is it ‘just’ what children do when they get a break from the ‘real’ learning activities, most of which are packaged these days as worksheets and fill-in-the answer activities? Certainly, schooling and even many reception year classes do not appear to place much value on creativity, free play and stories. Have the babies all been thrown out with the bathwater on waves of over-bureaucratised, standardised, testing-obsessed education reforms that have taken hold? Current versions of assessment-driven curricula cast the practicalities and effects of play and engagement with stories as too messy and difficult to measure, and thus irrelevant. But what is missed out by a wholly controlled learning environment that omits the space for creative activity?
I believe that stories and play are not only the necessary building blocks for early language and literacy learning in all children, but for all emotional, social and intellectual development. As a mother and teacher of young children, I spent many hours being dragged (usually willingly) into the world of storybook heroes like Anansi, Peter Pan and Pinocchio. I have also observed how given half a chance, young and even not-so-young children embrace with huge energy and enthusiasm objects like tables, cardboard boxes, blankets, wooden blocks and plastic containers to help originate and recreate scenarios they choose to explore. Through such free or pretend play, children breathe enchantment into sticks, stuffed toys and other props as they absorb themselves in an informal, often mysterious but totally relevant curriculum. It involves complex self- and peer-directed collaborations, turn-taking, directing and producing of action spun together by creative and adventurous language, relationship building and making meaning.
Many parents will have noticed how from babyhood, children play alone in an intense, dream-like zone, practicing, exploring and representing their experiences, ideas and emotions through softly spoken monologues, combined over time with painting, drawing or the beginnings of writing – producing story scripts like, “Now I’m Spiderman and you’re a giant and we’re fighting… fight fight… and now you’re crying because Spiderman is bigger… and look here comes Mommy so they’re hugging and being friends…
When children play, they willingly work at stretching their minds and bodies to deal with the challenges that entering and engaging with unknown, exciting or confusing information presents to them. They apply enormous self-discipline as they search their memory banks of experience and language to work out the possible rules for ways to speak and be a doctor or the sick patient; to act out how a tired mom is supposed to discipline her badly behaved child; what the child ought to do or say; or to be the magician who has the power to choose to do good or harm. By stepping into the shoes of the influential characters in their lives, whether they come from real-life or from a story, children get to cope with their own problems, think about values and learn about empathising and making judgments as they imagine and decide about different perspectives and ways of being.
Too many children lose out on the extraordinary richness of hearing extraordinary stories, told or read to them, or being played with by the special people in their lives. And although it’s hard to stop children from playing at all, many ‘learning environments’ and even some home environments discourage it. But when play is not valued, and is not nourished by precious adults and the great treasuries of stories, we restrict children’s ability to fully exercise and develop the greatest assets they possess as young human beings: their imaginations and language[s]. If we continue to neglect these assets, we neglect the healthy growth of our society. Yet is it possible, even easy to change this and it is a task that can hold enormous pleasure and satisfaction for everyone. Let’s all roll up our sleeves and get involved by making sure that we make time and space available for children to grow up with the magic and power of stories and play.
- Carole Bloch is Director of the Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa (PRAESA) – an initiating partner of the Nal’ibali Reading-for-Enjoyment Initiative supported by the DG Murray Trust. She has a PhD in early literacy in African settings from the Carl Ozietsky University, Oldenburg and has served as an early literacy consultant in several African countries. The main thrust of her work is to transform the way children learn to read and write, by helping to create conditions that put stories, meaning making and enjoyment at the centre of literacy and biliteracy learning. For more information, refer to www.nalibali.org.
AIDS Healthcare Foundation, in partnership with other stakeholders, has embarked on a project to sensitise and test pupils for HIV in various secondary schools in Zambia.
Preventive programme coordinator, Ntula Simwinga, points out that his organisation is working in conjunction with the ministry of Education, Science, Vocational Training and Early Education and the ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health.
The organisation hosted the ‘Love Life? Ziba HIV’ Schools Health festival on 2 June 2013 where more than 500 pupils and teachers tested for HIV.
To read the article titled, “NGO to sensitise, test pupils for HIV,” click here.Source:All Africa
Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga, was dolled up to take centre stage at an Equal Education (EE) Youth Day march in Pretoria.
Motshekga's double - a seven-metre high and three metre-wide blow-up doll - joined about 1 500 protesters marching in Pretoria.
The larger-than-life ‘Motshekga’ listened silently as several pupils in uniform spoke out about their disappointment over the minister's failure to tackle issues around standards for school infrastructure.
EE general secretary, Brad Brockman, explains: "We have the utmost respect for the minister and it was not our intent to insult her. We got the balloon as a way to represent her because she declined our invitations to attend today's march."
To read the article titled, “'Angie' joins the march,” click here.Source:Times Live
- How can we fix our education system? That question preoccupies our national mind - and not without cause. We fail to prepare enough people for basic jobs, let alone to sustain a sophisticated knowledge economy. If that is the question, the inevitable answer is that we need good teachers, quality textbooks and enough time in the classroom. But what if we asked a slightly different question, namely ‘what needs to be done so that our children can learn’?
Imagine that we could start from scratch and design an optimal response to our poor educational outcomes, based on current science. Our starting point would no longer be the child’s first day in the classroom, but the time of her conception. Our DNA consists of just four building blocks, and they are combined in fantastic variety to make us who we are. Among a myriad of processes, these combinations - our genes - trigger the formation of the neural tube in the growing foetus, which ultimately becomes our brain and nervous system.
The brain develops precociously compared to other organs. In terms of weight, its peak rate of growth is in the third trimester of pregnancy and first three months of new-born life. During this period, nerve cells ‘wire together’ to form the neural circuits that are required to sense and to think. Sensory neurons take the lead in connecting to each other and to other parts of the brain. Then language wiring starts to dominate, before higher cognitive functions - such as the ability to imagine and plan - kick in a frenzy of connections between specialised areas of the brain.
These linkages are reinforced by the child’s interaction with her mother and father in an unconscious game of ‘serve and return’. The child ‘serves’ a volley of smiles; the parent ‘returns’ with eyes that light up, sounds that encourage and touch that comforts. In this simple environment – of sufficient food, love, security and stimulation – the child is primed to learn, and the brain grows in size and sophistication. By the time she goes to school, neural circuitry is well established and the brain is already 95 percent of its adult size. In fact, the rich experiences of the first six years of life over-stimulate the neural pathways and what follows is a process of pruning and reshaping.
But what happens when the simple triggers of food, love, security and stimulation are not there? Then the brain switches to survival mode. Fight-or-flight neurotransmitters are released that inhibit processes of learning and reasoning. When these conditions persist, stress becomes toxic and the child’s learning potential is seriously damaged. Worse still, this stress changes the very structure of the child’s genes, so that the tendency to cower rather than flourish becomes part of her DNA and, in time, that of her children and grandchildren.
By the time she reaches school, she is on a completely different life trajectory to a friend born with the same genetic potential. The differences may be difficult to demonstrate in Grade 1, but the gaps in intellectual capacity and performance widen over the years. That’s one of the reasons why four-fifths of Grade 6’s score below 40 percent on standardised assessments of numeracy, compared with only a half of Grade 3’s. It is not that Grade 4-6 teachers are necessarily bad, but the effects of pre-existing deficiencies become starker. These children can mostly catch up, but full remediation is difficult and expensive.
Imagine each child as a tower of building blocks. We know that many will not reach their full height. However, we generally fail to understand that most building blocks are missing from the bottom, not the top. The Nobel laureate and economics professor, James Heckman, has shown that investments in pre-school learning produce the highest returns in terms of economic productivity. Yet, in South Africa, our spending on education is the inverse of where we would get the best results. As a proportion of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita enrolled, we spend most on tertiary education and least on early learning.
The answer does not only lie in realigning public expenditure, but in growing the simple building blocks of food, love, security and stimulation. Surely, these are things that can be provided to every young child in South Africa? You can start by reading to your own child from their first day of life - and to another child who might be missing out on the rich experiences that enable us to reach our full potential. Read a story to a child with a full stomach, and you will tick all the boxes for her growth and development, sparking connections that associate learning with love and security. Her sense of self-esteem, capacity to aspire and ability to achieve will be enhanced.
Can our teachers teach? Certainly, we must keep asking that question. But equally, we should be asking what should be done so that our children can really learn.
- David Harrison is chief executive of the DG Murray Trust, which provides core funding to the Nal'ibali reading-for-enjoyment campaign, driven by the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa at the University of Cape Town and Times Media to spark children’s potential through storytelling and reading. For more information, refer to www.nalibali.org.
The South African Mathematics Foundations (SAMF) says that Africa will host the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) in July 2014.
SAMF executive director, Johann Engelbrecht, points out that, “It is the first time this annual international mathematics competition will be held on the continent... We expect more than 600 contestants from about 100 countries to visit Africa for this."
In a press statement, the organisation says that it hopes as many African countries as possible would participate, adding that it will target countries already participating in the Pamo, including Benin, Burkina Faso, Gambia, Ghana, Malawi, Namibia, Senegal and Tanzania.
To read the article titled, “Africa to host maths olympiad,” click here.Source:The Citizen
Equal Education has given Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga, until close of business on 17 May 2013 to agree to a month's extension to publish the norms and standards plan.
Equal Education has agreed with ‘great reluctance’ to the basic education minister's request for an extension to finally publish the highly contested and long-awaited norms and standards for school infrastructure.
In a letter sent to the department's legal team, it says that, "If the minister does not agree to sign the new settlement agreement and carry out her constitutional obligations, Equal Education will immediately renew their application in court."
To read the article titled, “Equal Education extends deadline for Angie's agreement,” click here.Source:Mail & Guardian
- Ikamva LabantuPlease note: this opportunity closing date has passed and may not be available any more.Opportunity closing date:Tuesday, May 28, 2013Opportunity type:Employment
Ikamva Labantu seeks to appoint a Donor Relations Associate for its fundraising department, based in Cape Town.
The person will report to the Head of Donor Relations.
- Develop funding proposals;
- Compile donor reports;
- Produce and send out information and thank-you letters to donors;
- Screen funding environment and identify funding opportunities;
- Research donors and potential donors;
- Direct and/or handle general enquiries and requests from donors;
- Manage and maintain an accurate database and filing system;
- Provide administrative support to the Donor Relations team.
- Relevant degree or diploma;
- High degree of knowledge and insight into ‘fundraising’;
- Minimum of five years relevant work experience;
- Command of English language, both written and spoken;
- Proficiency in Microsoft Office packages, particularly Word, Excel and PowerPoint;
- Target driven and able to work to tight deadlines;
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- Energetic and highly self-motivated;
- Team orientated and able to work well with others;
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Please quote the source of this advertisement in your application - NGO Pulse Portal.
Enquiries: Head of Donor Relations, Mrs. Jovana Djeri, Tel: 021 461 8338.
Ikamva Labantu is committed to the principles of employment equity
For more about Ikamva Labantu, refer to www.ikamva.org.za.
For other vacancies in the NGO sector, refer to www.ngopulse.org/vacancies.------------------------------------------------------------------------
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Rights group, SECTION27, says there is still some schools without textbooks in Limpopo.
SECTION27 spokesperson, Nikki Stein, says that, “What worries us is also the fact that we have been flooded with phone calls this morning from schools to report textbooks shortages.”
Stein states that the callers asked SECTION27 not to give their names to the Department of Education because they have been intimidated, threatened and told that if they do report their textbook shortages, disciplinary steps may be taken against them.
The comments come after a Limpopo Education Department official, Tsakani Kubayi, who was arrested last year following the discovery of about 700 textbooks dumped on the banks of Nsami Dam in Giyani, appeared at the Giyani Regional Court.
To read the article titled, “Some Limpopo schools still without textbooks: SECTION27,” click here.Source:SABC News
According to a joint article by Lisa Draga and Doron Isaacs, the fees charged by certain public schools mean that most South Africans cannot afford to send their children to them, even though the fees are a great boost to the schools.
Draga and Isaacs argues that top public schools have inherited better infrastructure and are able to tap into private wealth to attract the best teachers and keep class sizes small.
The note that while some schools in the provinces are flourishing, many meet in overcrowded, ramshackle buildings and produce appalling results. They further add that efforts to build schools are slow, but children grow quickly, and their right to receive a decent basic education is immediate.
To read the article titled, “Equal education is a basic right,” click here.Source:Independent Online
The Da Vinci Institute has called on South African universities to work towards increasing work-based learning opportunities for their students.
Speaking at his inauguration as the first chancellor of the Da Vinci Institute, in Johannesburg, Edward Kieswetter, said that South Africa has a high graduate unemployment rate, with many of its educated youth unable to make that essential first step into the workplace to gain working experience.
Kieswetter is of the view that the design of education in South Africa allowed for ‘work integration’ and that should be used effectively, adding that, “If we don’t take advantage of that, the ones who will lose are the unemployed graduates."
To read the article titled, “SA varsities ‘should create workplace-based learning opportunities’,” click here.Source:Business Day Live