05 Nov Newsletter
Thanks for reading our first newsletter!
The last Catch-Up sessions for 2018 took place on Saturday 3 November and it’s now up to our learners to do their best in the end-of-year exams. It’s also a good time to share some highlights of the past year.
“Sir, sir, thanks for these classes. This year I’m going to pass!”
(A learner from Olifantsfontein Primary)
Launched in February 2018
The aim of the Catch-Up programme is to tutor and help struggling primary school kids at underprivileged schools to “catch up”. The sad reality in South Africa is that:
- 78% of grade 4 learners do not understand the meaning of the words they are reading (as per the latest PIRLS report)
- our country’s grade 5 learners perform extremely poorly against mathematics skills benchmarks (as per the latest TIMSS study)
Phase one of Catch-Up was to help struggling learners from grade 4 to grade 7 with Mathematics and English. We do this at their own schools on Saturday mornings, with the help of volunteering tutors and sponsored learning material. Since March, Catch-Up has been operating at the following four underprivileged schools, where we had eight tutors per school every Saturday:
- Paradise Christian School in Olievenhoutbosch
- Walter Sisulu Primary in Olievenhoutbosch
- Olifantsfontein Primary in Clayville (next to Tembisa)
- Boikgantsho Primary in Mamelodi
Across all four schools a total of 141 kids have attended at least one Catch-Up session, and the average attendance per school each week was 22.
Catching Up during the holidays too!
During our normal Saturday morning Catch-Up sessions we tend to focus on the very basics only. To create more time for learning and practising, we ran a Holiday Catch-Up programme for four days at two of the schools during the July holidays.
40 high school learners (and six teachers) from Midstream College gave up some of their own holiday time to help the Catch-Up kids to read time, to measure distance, weight and height, and to understand fractions. We had a huge turnout at each school and also lots of fun, playing netball and soccer too!
Improvement in school marks
It’s early days, but the results to date are promising. The learners’ overall average school mark has improved from 50% (as at the end of 2017) to 55% (as at the end of 2018 term 3). The average English mark has improved from 46% to 57% and the average mathematics mark from 46% to 51%.
The next two graphs show the progression in marks across all four schools, based only on kids who attended at least five Catch-Up sessions during the year. The first graph shows their overall academic average as well as their averages for English and Mathematics. The second graph shows the overall averages split per grade.
We will continue to monitor each Catch-Up learner’s marks and report back to our schools, tutors and sponsors. A detailed analysis of the results per school and per grade is available upon request and is also discussed with each school.
“I had the happiest moments of my life with these kids. Seeing the love and dedication they have for their education gives me strength and motivates me to bring more light into their futures.”
(A tutor from Tulip)
Renovations and improvements
OUTsurance, through its Staff Helping SA OUT initiative, gives huge support to Catch-Up. They also arrange and transport volunteers (from their employee volunteering programme) to two Catch-Up schools each week.
Upon their first visit to Paradise School in Olievenhoutbosch, they immediately recognised the dire state of their classrooms and other infrastructure. OUTsurance then arranged and funded some significant renovations to improve the learning conditions for the teachers and learners. Thank you very much, OUTsurance!
Every school should have a band!
All schools have a school choir. But hardly any underprivileged school has a band or an orchestra, due to the costs involved. The musician and music teacher Johanna Roos shared with us the legendary story of Juan Antonio Abreu. He transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands of underprivileged kids in Venezuela through his El Sistema programme. El Sistema introduced music teaching at hundreds of disadvantaged schools, which gave the kids the opportunity to learn how to read music, to play an instrument, to practise with discipline and to master an inspirational new skill. Over and above creating a safe haven for the kids, the programme lead to marked improvements in school attendance and pass rates.
Yamaha South Africa also has an outreach programme to assist underprivileged schools with music instruments and teaching. With their help, we started training three teachers at Olifantsfontein Primary and we plan to start teaching recorder classes to at least 50 learners from January 2019. The programme will then be rolled out to all our other Catch-Up schools too. The dream is to introduce more instruments over time and to help each school form its own proper band. Imagine seeing our schools’ bands and orchestras perform at their local community functions!
Phase two – Computer-based learning
At the Saturday tutoring sessions, we quickly realised how much these learners are struggling with very basic concepts and skills (such as word recognition when reading, and simple bonds and multiplication tables when doing mathematics). Many of these skills do not necessarily require personal tutoring, but rather the opportunity to be able to practise, practise and practise. Computer-based training programmes, in a structured environment with enough guidance, are ideal tools to address this situation.
We also realised that most underprivileged schools in Gauteng once had a functional computer lab. However, at each school we have visited, these labs are now “store rooms” with no working computers. Catch-Up started to collaborate with The Click Foundation (www.clickfoundation.co.za), a large NGO operating across South Africa. They assist schools to revamp their computer labs by installing cost effective laptops, Wi-Fi Internet connectivity and learning applications, and they also provide funding and training support for two full-time computer lab facilitators at each school. The Click Foundation (TCF) has been operating since 2012 and already have over 50,000 learners (at over 130 schools) on their platform.
The crucial recipe for success in TCF’s model is that the school needs to adapt its weekly roster to allow each learner to spend two class periods per week in the lab during normal school time – under the guidance of dedicated and well-trained computer lab facilitators.
Over and above offering the Wi-Fi Internet hardware, monthly Internet data, insurance against theft etc. on the laptops, funding for two full-time facilitators and ample training and on-going support all free of charge to the school, TCF also offers each school 10 laptops. The school needs to raise funding in order to purchase the remaining 40 laptops. TCF imports these laptops in bulk at an attractive whole sale cost of roughly R3,800 per unit, which means each school needs to raise R150,000.
Catch-Up has identified four underprivileged schools whom we want to help and each school agreed to raise R20,000 through their own efforts.
We’ve therefore set ourselves an audacious challenge, as we basically need to raise R520,000 before the end of the year. If we can achieve this, there will be roughly 4,000 underprivileged learners who will suddenly have a chance of improving their English and Mathematics ability to such an extent that they will have a fair chance of success in life.
For Catch-Up this initiative is not only about implementing the TCF solution at each school. We have already agreed with TCF and with each school that we will be able to use the labs in the afternoons (during the week) as well as on Saturday mornings. Every school will still have a number of learners who are really struggling and who need extra help – which is our core focus area. We will expand our programme to use a combination of personal tutoring as well as computer-based learning applications to help these learners “catch up”. With the same number of volunteers, Catch-Up will then be able to help many more kids during the week and on Saturdays.
The dream is for the “store room” at each one of these schools to be transformed as follows:
Please contact us if you’d like to donate towards this computer lab project. Catch-Up is a registered not-for-profit company as well as a registered Public Benefit Organisation, which means we can issue you with a section 18A tax certificate to use as a tax deduction.
So many wonderful supporters!
Catch-Up has received enormous help from many people. We’d like to acknowledge and thank the following people and organisations:
- Estelle Barnard’s Study Champ, which provides us with all our English and Mathematics learning material and worksheets. Estelle is also a director of Catch-Up. (See studychamp.co.za.)
- Johan Poggenpoel from Doxa Deo Midstream, for his inspirational “City Changers” leadership and advice. Johan is also a director of Catch-Up.
- Willem Gouws, for managing the finances of Catch-Up, helping to expand the programme to new schools and assisting with fund raising. Willem is also a director of Catch-Up.
- Grant Coote and Anton Roseler from In The Kitchen, the corporate catering company which provides and delivers food parcels for all the learners at each school each week. (See inthekitchen.co.za.)
- Mariske Keyter and the whole team at OUTsurance’s Staff Helping SA OUT, for arranging volunteering tutors for two schools each week and for the renovations done at Paradise School. (See outsurance.co.za.)
- Marno Swart and Nena Letete from Tulip Tutors at the University of Pretoria. Tulip is a group of volunteering students and they arrange the tutors for one of our schools each week. (See @tuksleadership on Facebook.)
- Mark Schefermann from Lucky Beard, the creative and design agency, for their help with our website and design work. (See luckybeard.co.za.)
- Manus Myburgh from Business Print, for all their scanning and printing work. (See businessprint.co.za.)
- Jacques Rossouw from Astute, for their generous donation of laptops. (See astutefse.com.)
- Midstream College, for supporting our Holiday Catch-Up programme and arranging daily transport for their learners during the holiday programme. (See midstreamcollege.co.za.)
- Southdowns College, for introducing the Catch-Up programme to their high school learners and encouraging them to become volunteering tutors. (See southdownscollege.co.za.)
- Eustace Wilken from Yamaha South Africa and Johanna Roos, for their time and commitment towards our exciting new music teaching plans. (See yamaha.co.za.)
- The principals and staff at each Catch-Up school, for their support and commitment to the programme. They are:
- Lesibana Molepo at Olifantsfontein Primary
- Ivy Mokoena and Linky Siwelane at Paradise Christian School
- Garos Kabinde at Walter Sisulu Primary
- Vusi Khumalo at Boikgantsho Primary
And most importantly, a huge thanks to all the volunteering tutors who gave up their Saturday mornings to help make a difference at the Catch-Up schools!
The following volunteers tutored at least five times during the course of the year and therefore deserve a special mention:
Let’s Catch-Up soon!
The first year of Catch-Up has been enormously fulfilling and lots of fun. Feedback from the learners, schools and volunteering tutors has also been extremely positive. The programme is however still very new and it will certainly be adapted and expanded going forward, as we learn important lessons and receive more feedback from our stakeholders.
Most people want to make a difference, and lending a hand to help educate young South Africans is a fantastic way of building our country’s future. Catch-Up offers a simple, enjoyable and sustainable opportunity to volunteer, and these opportunities will simply become more as we add new elements to our programme.
Please visit www.catch-up.co.za for more information on how to get involved.
We look forward to seeing you at Catch-Up soon!
083 600 4359