Schools programme offers ray of hope

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Empowerment projects reap rewards

BASED in East London, the Small Projects Foundation (SPF) has been changing the lives of impoverished and vulnerable communities around South Africa since January 1988.

SPF’s Bright Futures programme is a testament to this.

Piloted in 2008 and officially implemented in 2013, the Bright Futures programme is a three-faceted programme, consisting of Protecting Futures, Give Yourself a Job and Gender-Based Violence Education.

“Our key task is to improve the quality of life for poor and disadvantaged communities on an economic, social and healthcare level,” managing director of SPF, Paul Cromhout, said.

Within these three facets, the SPF has designed and implemented various projects including the Newlands Primary Schools Development Project and various women empowerment initiatives such as the Stay Free to Learn initiative.

Both projects/initiatives have been rolled out and have been extremely successful in the Eastern Cape, specifically in the Newlands area, just outside East London.

The Newlands Primary Schools Development Project is a project dedicated to building up the capacity of Early Childhood Development Centres (ECD’s or preschools) and Primary schools by providing academic and co-curricular support and mentoring.

The project is managed by former George Randall Primary School headmaster, Hilton Williams, who, with the help of other teachers, former principals and school coaches has aided under-resourced ECD’s and primary schools in the Newlands area.

“Understanding that 60% of South African children still do not know how to read in any language by the time they reach Grade 3 and that a mere 27% of Eastern Cape students cover the annual school syllabus, this project is vital in ensuring these kids have a good future,” Williams said.

“The vision is to empower principals, staff, pupils and the community with the skills to improve the quality of learning and teaching and the community at large,” Williams said.

“We have to undo a culture inherited through Apartheid and instill a sense of accountability and leadership. These schools can and must be just as good as the schools in town.”

The project has seen various successes and created a sense of pride and possibility in the schools. According to Williams, the schools started off the year with no major delays as every teacher was present and willing to teach – which is unheard of.

“Our sports programme has also been extremely successful, a sense of pride has developed in each school and player,” Williams said.

“It’s wonderful to see parents getting involved as well. Previously disengaged parents are now on the side lines cheering for their children on the sports field,” he said.

Cromhout said: “A lack of recreational activities and safe spaces to have fun is a big problem for the youth in these impoverished areas. Many high schools have seen the behavioural change in the new kids coming from primary schools and many have asked to be part of our sports programme because of this.”

Over the next three years, SPF hopes to implement these programmes in 50 other schools in the Buffalo City Metro (BCM) area. “We want to support as many of the peri-urban and township communities within the BCM as possible,” said Cromhout.

Next week the GO! will take a closer look at the second project, Stay Free to Learn initiative, that has seen absenteeism in participating schools drop by about 50%.

BRIGHT FUTURES: The Small Projects Foundation (SPF) is empowering communities through education. The Newlands Schools project has provided teachers, pupils and parents with the skills to put smiles on young faces and build a better future for their children Picture: SUPPLIED

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