Local stories voted best by kids

To celebrate National Book Week some colleauges and I ran a workshop for about 60 Grade 5s to find out what it is that they like to read. These children have Reading Alive libraries in their classrooms, and their views will influence the selection for the 2013 classroom libraries that will soon be finalised. We imagined a birthday party and asked which title should be given to a girl, and which to a boy. Unsurprisingly, Jamela’s Dress and Ouma Ruby’s Secret were the most popular titles for girls. Boys loved the JAWS titles published by Heinamenn – The Angel who Wore Shoes and The Big Fight coming out tops. According to one boy who chose the latter, it is a good present for a boy because “it teaches the boy the method to fight, and boys like to fight.” What is most significant about these preferences is that the favourites are African stories written primarily for African children. The international classics of children’s literature that also make up the selection were not featured amongst the favourites. Continue reading “Local stories voted best by kids”

Buildings or people: what makes for a wealthy school?

A recent visit to schools all over SA has highlighted the shambles that is the Department of Education’s quintile system. Schools are rated according the qunitiles, with quintile 1 schools deemed to be poorest and receiving the full Government subsidy, and quintile 5 schools deemed the wealthiest and receiving the smallest subsidy.  The higher the quintile rating the higher the funding  shortfall that the parents and governing body have to make up each year.    Continue reading “Buildings or people: what makes for a wealthy school?”

Giving children choice – it builds confidence and plays to their strenghts.

Too often young children in our schools are treated like robots who are directed by the instruction of their teacher and the structure of their system. Teachers in public schools have been trained within this structure, so introducing learner choice is something that will take some teacher “un-training” to achieve. We introduced the concept of learner choice at a recent Reading Alive teacher training session conducted by Social Innovations trainer Shirley Obery. Shirley was previously head of the middle school at St. Peters school in Johannesburg, and this school offers learners a high degree of choice in the classroom activities that they do. This encourages learners to work to their strenghts and builds their self confidence – but

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it takes a skilled and confident teacher to pull it off. Continue reading “Giving children choice – it builds confidence and plays to their strenghts.”

Students driving change worthy of support

I was fortunate to be asked again to be a judge at the annual Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) awards today. SIFE is an international organisation that mobilises tertiary education students to address social challenges using entrepreneurail thinking as captured by its by-line, “a head for business, a heart for the world.” Every year, students from the 27 member institutions

in South Africa present their programmes and results to judging panels make up of mostly business representatives. All vie for the top spot in South Africa which will see them representing their country in the international championship – this year it

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will be hosted in Washington. Continue reading “Students driving change worthy of support”

Growing private school sector an opportunity for CSI funders.

The recent Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE) report on the private school sector makes for fascinating reading. It shows that the private school sector is growing enormously internationally with the fastest growth rate taking place in Africa – over 12 years this sector grew by 113% in Africa relative to a 52% growth in the public school sector. This suggests that parents are looking beyond what Government has to offer as they look for the best opportunities for the next generation. The research dispels the myth that private schooling is for the privileged only and shows enormous growth in township and rural based private schools that cater to the poor. Continue reading “Growing private school sector an opportunity for CSI funders.”

Wild Things & Magic Pebbles: Respect the intelligence of the child

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is a ritual never to be overlooked. One of the favourites of our 2 ½ year old is Where the Wild Things are, and this was also a favourite of his mother’s 30-odd years ago. It’s such a delight to watch a toddler “gnash his terrible teeth and show his terrible claws”. He knows the words by heart. So it was with great sadness that I read of the death of Wild Things author Maurice Sendak. GOOD has

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posted an insightful obituary which allows me to better understand the book that we have got to know so well. Continue reading “Wild Things & Magic Pebbles: Respect the intelligence of the child”

Is the decline in functional illiteracy something to celebrate?

The number of adults considered functionally illiterate has decreased from 27,9% in 2002 to 18,1% in 2011. These statistics were published this week by Statistics South Africa (SSA) in its 2011 Household Survey. People over sixty are most likely to be functionally illiterate, and this is what you would expect of those schooled in an era where the education of a black child was not prioritised. The question is, has anything changed? Continue reading “Is the decline in functional illiteracy something to celebrate?”

Caretaker school principal wears many hats

Our ongoing search for host schools for CSI programmes took me to the new township of Glenridge near Soweto yesterday. This is a greenfields housing/township development in an area previously called Protea Glen Extension 16. Many houses are still being painted, and newly planted trees give promise to what is a dusty new development. I was there to track down Linda Khanyi, the principal of Itemogele Primary in Soweto who has been seconded by the Department of Education to start up Glenridge Primary School – a brand new school to service a brand new community. Continue reading “Caretaker school principal wears many hats”

Commit, connect, create…

I was fortunate to recently attend a talk by British entrepreneur and speaker Kevin Gaskell (www.kevingaskell.com) in Cape Town. The man’s CV seems too packed to be the achievements of only one person – from transforming some of

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the world’s top brands, to building business to representing his country in international sport. And did I mention that he has walked to both the poles. He is a great storyteller and shared valuable insights. But there are three words from his presentation that stand out for me that have led me to reflect on my own practice as a social entrepreneur. Continue reading “Commit, connect, create…”

Is your programme creaking with strain or geared for growth?

At Social Innovations, we recently learned a valuable lesson about structuring for growth. 2011 was a year of growth for us, and this put unexpected strain on our structure. We were working with the MD of the organisation (myself) tasked with growing and developing the organisation while also taking on a large chunk of the day to day programme management responsibilities. We employed one overall co-ordinator responsible for visiting all sites every month, gathering data, writing reports and providing mentorship and support to our sites across four provinces. We also employed site managers and a team of teachers at each site. Needless to say, by October, things started to creak with the strain. Continue reading “Is your programme creaking with strain or geared for growth?”