06 December 2010

Tshepo's graduation

Oh my.

First off, let me give you some statistics - Zandspruit is about 1km square - with an estimated 70,000 people living inside. 16,000(ish) of those are children. We have one primary school that can only hold around 1,000 kids - at a ratio of 1 teacher to 60 kids. (although fundraising actively being done to build a new campus of a private christian based school inside the settlement - we are super excited about this). We have around 20 registered preschools/day cares. Some are as small as a mother inviting 6-10 kids into her home every day. I've visited some that teach as many as 60 kids and follow educational programs. A survey done earlier in the year showed that 80% of the teachers/caregivers in those preschools have no early childhood development training what-so-ever. Educational research has shown that a child’s brain is already developed 80% by the age of four and that they learn their most crucial life lessons and values in the early years of their lives.

Enter Play with a Purpose. A preschool training program and curriculum geared for raising up teachers in this area. Teachers who will actively engage their children, It is a unique developmental programme that merges biological and behaviour based theories. The program prepares children for formal education with good results in maths, reading and language areas and aids in their understanding of who they are and how they relate to one another.

I've gotten to see first hand both teachers going through the training and preschools thriving as a result of being certified and using the curriculum to it's fullest. The preschool at GoLang (in Zandspruit) is one of those that simply shines.

I was invited to the preschool graduation's this weekend. A parent needed to go to a funeral and couldn't see her little one's crowning moment asked if I would go and photograph for her. Since he is one of my favorite little guys, I was too, too happy.

The graduation was high class. Dancing, singing, reciting poetry, drama, showing off phonics and math and I-know-my-days-of-the-week-skills. Adorable costumes, fancy dresses, lots of bling - tiaras and chandelier earrings adorned the girls. Snacks and bubbles and hula hoops and balls. I have a video I'll try and figure out how to resize so I can upload it later so you can almost be there too. I'm just super proud of these teachers, and of these kids. These were the littlest guys when the preschool first opened two and a half years ago. We've watched them learn and we've watched them grow. My prayers are for them now as they head to primary schools next year. Many of them get to go to the christian private school (the one that is eventually hoping to move into Zandspruit). Some will have to stay in our local primary. No matter where they are, they will shine - they have been given a brilliant beginning to life - to their social and brain development. These are already smart kids.

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