I’ve had the privilege of living in Holland for a year. Winter mornings were often 1 or 2 degrees. Night times were icy cold. But Holland is prepared for this: houses are 100% insulated with indoor heating, shopping centres are heated, everyone has thick winter apparel to wear and lovely steamy food to eat. And yes, even here in South Africa we can experience these temperatures in winter and while our houses might not have under floor heating, we can put on the heaters or climb under a warm duvet. Now take that same temperature to farm life in the Karoo but minus the infrastructure or amenities, minus even the warm food. This week we took clothes to some of our most impoverished communities living on farms outside Montagu. It was 9am and the temperature dial in my car read 2 degrees. The house has no ceiling, the floor is concrete, there are no heaters, no warm clothes and no food in sight. The children were without socks or shoes, the ‘bedroom’ was a pile of dirty old blankets lying on a torn piece of foam. Parents, grandfather and 4 children all sleep in that same room which is the size of a pantry. There were no beds, no chairs, no table, no stove, no fridge. I am just so grateful that the children are in our programme during the day where they get warm food to eat, we can give them clothes to wear and books to read and where they get love and happiness.
These 3 months of severe winter cold must be the most challenging time for so many people in our country who do not have the means to keep themselves warm. If you do have warm clothes in your cupboard that you are going to fit into just after you lose that extra weight (!!!......) – please give it away. Most towns have a shelter or local churches that will pass on your donation of clothes or blankets. We know the sun will shine again and things will get warmer, but while the ice covers the ground, please do help if you can.
May I never ever complain or be ungrateful for the life I am so fortunate to lead.
Reaping the Rewards from Reading Interventions
This year, our main focus during the ‘Reading’ hour has been on teaching children to read by practicing high-frequency sight words, building comprehension and sentence writing. It therefore makes sense to monitor the impact of our interventions by assessing the children on these skills.
The One Minute Reading Test helps us determine the reading age of a child (compared to his/her chronological age). By retesting after a set period, we can then determine if the child’s reading age has improved as a result of our interventions. We did the first reading age tests in February this year (Langeberg only) while the 2nd test was done with the same children in May. The results: EVERY SINGLE child
As the children are tested on high-frequency sight words (words that pop up all the time) it means that after a period of 3 months, all children tested could read more words per minute than they did in the first test. Without these sight words learners are not able to read. It’s an exciting start, but also illustrates just how desperate the situation is. When comparing these scores to the Department of Education’s benchmark, the children perform poorly. Without a focused intervention this gap will only grow.
Our aim is to continue doing what we’re doing so that when retested at the year end, the gap between the children’s reading score and the benchmark score has decreased, not grown. If we can achieve this, it would be a significant contribution.
As per past years, all children write the grade-specific Anna Foundation exam. These results are useful in identifying learning difficulties and highlighting which areas we can focus our attention (beyond reading). We compare the June results to the assessments which will be done in November in order to gauge improvements made.
Scholarship News: A New Addition
We have a new addition to our scholarship programme, also and our first child from the Langeberg – Welcome to Debroh! Debroh spent his foundation phase school years at his local farm school, Riverside Primary. The Anna Foundation started working at this school 3 years ago and immediately noticed Debroh as a strong academic candidate and a child motivated to succeed. At the start of 2016 he relocated to Robertson Primary to commence his Grade 4 year. We are proud to be offering him this opportunity!
In his first term school report he did extremely well, particularly in maths, scoring 98% (which is virtually unheard of among the children with whom we work)! He achieved 74% for English (also unheard of) and 67% for Afrikaans, being placed 8th overall in his class at Robertson Primary.
Considering Debroh’s background and social circumstances, we think this is an excellent achievement in a new school! His school teacher comments that he is “a quiet boy, that his work is always neat and that he always tries his best”. In the most recent Anna Foundation exams, Debroh scored 96% - keep an eye on this kid!!
More Scholarship News: Mariska Going Places
Mariska (Grade 6) has turned on the heat this year on the netball court! Since starting at Stellenbosch Primary in 2011, netball has always been her winter sport of choice and coaches have often referred to Mariska as their “star player”. She is currently in the school’s U12 team and after passing a series of zone and regional trials, she has been chosen for the Winelands (previously Boland) team to participate in the Western Cape Inter District Tournament in Riversdal in August! This is such a huge achievement for her and we are extremely delighted! She is the ONLY child chosen from the entire school at this level, providing a much needed confidence boost for her! This opportunity would never have presented itself had Mariska not been in this scholarship programme and we are humbled by her success.
At Stellenbosch Primary she has been given ongoing support from both the school and netball coaches which has developed her abilities and her confidence in the game. Most importantly though, she has received the safety and security of a stable home and loving day mother to whom we owe so much of Mariska’s development. Her self-confidence has grown as a result of this constant encouragement, enabling her to step up to the challenges, envisage and achieve greater goals for herself. We are super proud!
Thanks to this Month's Supporters