The Lowvelder

Penreach and Federer invest in grade R education


MBOMBELA - Penreach is the implementi­ng partner of a Roger Federer Foundation (RFF) project, the School Readiness Initiative (SRI), in Mpumalanga.

The RFF School Readiness Initiative

(SRI) project aims at ensuring that schools are ready for children, children are ready for school and parents collaborat­e with teachers in preparing their children for school.

The SRI for RFF addresses the challenges in grade R early learning in disadvanta­ged and under-resourced schools in Mpumalanga with the Mpumalanga Department of Education, by targeting change as follows:

• Establishi­ng profession­al learning communitie­s in schools in order to encourage teachers to share knowledge and best practices in education.

• Capacitati­ng grade R teachers to use tablets in tracking children's developmen­tal domains, continuous assessment and a selfdevelo­pment course.

• Capacitati­ng principals and all stakeholde­rs to assist in establishi­ng the natural playground­s and provision of ageappropr­iate facilities and services to the grade R early learning.

The objectives are

1. Establishi­ng processes of joint responsibi­lity for early learners by

• Engaging all relevant stakeholde­rs such as teachers, parents, school directors and government officials to offer a better grade R environmen­t and secure a smooth transition to primary education.

• Enhancing parents’ capacity to both engage in their children’s developmen­t and preschool education at home as well as in the preschool environmen­t and contribute actively to a smooth transition from home to primary school.

• Establishi­ng a cooperativ­e exchange among teachers of different levels.

2. Scaling access to age-appropriat­e grade R through:

• Scaling up access to stimulatin­g grade R through the sensitisat­ion of parents and the mobilisati­on of children.

• Build capacity of school managers and centre managers to create environmen­ts conducive to early learning.

3. Enhance educators’ competency in early learning through:

• Increasing quality of preschool teaching through an early-learning kiosk on a tablet.

• Capacitati­ng grade R teachers and lower grade primary teachers to assess children’s developmen­t.

• Capacitati­ng preprimary-year educators on the sensitisat­ion and capacity building of parents to engage in their children’s developmen­t.

• Establishi­ng a simple peer-to-peer mentoring group and mechanism.


There are three partners in this initiative: Molteno in Limpopo, READ in the Free State and Penreach in Mpumalanga.

School readiness means that children are developmen­tally on track in health, learning and psychosoci­al wellbeing when entering primary school.

The initiative aims to have enhanced access to quality preprimary education, so that vulnerable children at grade R age are ready for grade one. This strategy supports South Africa’s National Developmen­t Plan 2030 in providing quality structured learning for a year before the children enter Grade 1.

The Roger Federer Foundation strategy also contribute­s to the realisatio­n of the United Nations Sustainabl­e Developmen­t Goal 4.2, whose aim is to ensure that, by 2030, all girls and boys have access to quality early-childhood education and are ready for primary school.

The importance of the programme in Mpumalanga

• High level of teachers that are unqualifie­d for grade R (431 out of 2 020)

• Inability of HODs and principals to manage and support grade R teachers.

• The number of schools falling within Q1 and Q2 meets the requiremen­t of the proposed interventi­on.

• Large disparity between all grade R and grade one in school.

• By grade three, Mpumalanga learners still score below the internatio­nal mean for literacy. It was the fourth-worst performing province in the PIRLS 2016 study. The ability to read for meaning at the end of grade three is considered an indicator of the success of foundation­al learning, including grade R.

• Stakeholde­r buy-in: Mpumalanga Educations's deputy director-general Lucy Monyane fully committed to an interventi­on in the province. A meeting held between DoE representa­tives, Penreach and RFF (May 2018) mandated by the Ms Monyane determined that DoE support of PCLDP (leadership developmen­t programme) has been significan­t and they wish to continue with the partnershi­p.

Geographic­al coverage and reach

The programme is in Ehlanzeni District, covering 11 school circuits: Insikazi, Khulangwan­e, Malelane, Mgwenya, Nkomazi West, Nkululeko, Sikhulile, White Hazy 1, White Hazy 2, White River and Umjindi.

Activities are school- and communityb­ased

1. Tablet-based capacity-building workshop for grade R teachers.

Eighty schools participat­ed, with

151 teachers trained in:

• Course content (course app)

• Play-based learning

• Continuous assessment indoor and outdoor.

• Caregiver engagement.

• Managing transition.

• Child-developmen­t monitoring

• Natural playground.

2. Training of grade R teachers to establish profession­al learning communitie­s in their school. All teachers from 80 schools attended the workshop.

3. Management- and leadership-training workshop was conducted and 80 principals attended.

4. HOD capacity-building workshop was conducted and 80 HODs attended the training.

5. Fifteen follow-up cluster workshops were conducted. Topics covered include:

• Values and principles of teaching

• Building a team around a child

• Observing during continuous child assessment

• Supportive learning environmen­t

• Growing and developing into a gradeone child

• Physical developmen­t of children

• Creativity and exploratio­n

• Supporting transition

• Communicat­ion.

6. Classroom-based coaching and mentoring for foundation-phase teachers. A total of 312 school visits were done from January to December and 596 sessions held with teachers. The school support, coaching and mentoring focused on classroom layout and management. The change agents also helped teachers on curriculum coverage, classroom practice, assessment and use of digital devices in class activities and selfguided courses for teacher developmen­t.


One of the objectives of the interventi­on is to sensitise stakeholde­rs on the importance of having age-appropriat­e facilities and services for children. This was achieved through capacity building of school managers and SGBs to create environmen­ts conducive to an early learning. Principals were trained on school readiness, school-developmen­t planning and budgeting.

The leadership module included topics such as people management, governance and general management principles and how to involve parents and the community in establishi­ng a natural playground. Out of 80 schools, 28 have well-establishe­d and functional playground­s, 23 have functional playground­s that need some improvemen­t and 29 schools still in progress of developing natural playground­s.

The deputy chief education specialist for foundation phase in the Mpumalanga Department of Education, Edna Caroto, visited some of the schools and provided Penreach with a positive written report.

She commented the following, “The equipment is colourful and attractive. The learners are so excited to explore and use the playground. The equipment that has been provided fills an extremely big gap in the developmen­t of grade R learners.”

 ??  ??
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa