Cre­at­ing a yearn­ing for learn­ing

CityPress - - Voices - ATHANDIWE SABA athandiwe.saba@city­

The fu­ture is in the hands of the youth but their devel­op­ment starts be­fore they can even walk – this is Carolyn Reid’s fer­vent be­lief and pas­sion. It is why she ded­i­cates her time and skills to en­sur­ing that chil­dren un­der five in the most dis­ad­van­taged ar­eas in Joburg have a hand-up be­fore they be­gin preschool.

In 2007, Reid was ap­proached by a friend who had been work­ing in Alexan­dra town­ship, train­ing peo­ple in home-based care for the chron­i­cally and ter­mi­nally ill. “My friend found that many of the homes she vis­ited had peo­ple look­ing af­ter chil­dren, but there was no stim­u­la­tion for them. In­stead, they were fight­ing, scream­ing, un­con­trolled – or just sleep­ing. She asked if I could teach these min­ders how to stim­u­late the chil­dren. It was sup­posed to be just for a year, so my friend and I put to­gether a ba­sic pro­gramme that ran that first year for 15 women,” says Reid.

In the first year, her pro­gramme, Masenze Ikusasa – which ap­pro­pri­ately means “build­ing the fu­ture” – teaches the prac­ti­tion­ers how to make art projects such as dolls, charts, puzzles and much more from re­cy­clable ma­te­rial. These are used to stim­u­late the young chil­dren and teach them how to count, and iden­tify shapes and colours. Reid shows off one of the dolls made from an old or­anges sack filled with news­pa­pers.

The teach­ers are also taught how to make puzzles from dis­carded pic­tures and card­board.

As Reid was flooded with re­quests to con­tinue the course, and with her pas­sion for teach­ing, she agreed to ex­tend the course and took it upon her­self to for­malise the train­ing. Through­out the course, she puts in her own money and time to en­sure that the prac­ti­tion­ers, who spend hours with the chil­dren, are fully equipped to stim­u­late their minds and en­ter­tain them.

“You can change the world by giv­ing these chil­dren an op­por­tu­nity to learn at that age. When they hit school, they fly – they have all they need to excel,” says Reid, who lights up when she talks about the kids.

“This is such an ex­cit­ing time in their lives. The need to learn is so in­grained in lit­tle chil­dren, no mat­ter where they come from. You just need to stim­u­late and guide it so it can be­come a tool they can use for the rest of their lives.”

Reid qual­i­fied as a teacher in the 1970s. Although she has taught most age groups, she found that she was hap­pi­est when she was with younger chil­dren. She has worked for a non­govern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tion that fo­cused on arts and cul­ture ed­u­ca­tion, and started train­ing pro­grammes for in­ner-city schools in garages, on top of build­ings and in va­cant shops.

“Work­ing like this, I re­alised the huge im­pact of peo­ple us­ing their hands and get­ting prac­ti­cally in­volved in things. That’s where and when I got a lot of ideas that I use in the course.”

Reid’s fo­cus is not only stim­u­lat­ing young chil­dren, but em­pow­er­ing the prac­ti­tion­ers who, be­fore the course, had no qual­i­fi­ca­tions or for­mal train­ing.

“My vi­sion was to give them enough ba­sic skills so that the chil­dren’s foun­da­tion skills were be­ing de­vel­oped. Prob­a­bly 90% of the peo­ple on the course go on to get for­mal qual­i­fi­ca­tions. There is a hunger for peo­ple to get the skills, they are just not aware where to get them.”

One of Reid’s most suc­cess­ful prac­ti­tion­ers is Beauty Mok­gotho, who joined the course the first year it was held. From a ru­ral back­ground but grow­ing up in Soweto, her life was not easy. Af­ter com­plet­ing the course, she con­tin­ued study­ing un­til she qual­i­fied as a teacher in 2011. Now, in ad­di­tion to her day job, Mok­gotho con­tin­ues to work at Masenze Ikusasa as a fa­cil­i­ta­tor.

These suc­cesses are what keep Reid go­ing. “There are times I think I am mad be­cause this is hard work. My orig­i­nal aim was that the ladies in Alex must own this; it’s their project. I had the abil­ity to start it but I want them to take it up on their own. I will do what I can to help them get to the next level of their lives with the lit­tle I have.” This se­ries is de­vel­oped in part­ner­ship with the South­ern Africa Trust

and the African Grant­mak­ers Net­work. To sup­port a cause, visit www.change4ever.



GIV­ING IT HER aLL Carolyn Reid helps chil­dren get a de­cent start in life

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