Growing an intrinsic love of numbers, stories and reading at a very young age creates a promising foundation for future learning. The Nobalisa Community Readers drive this mission here in Zithulele through their mother-tongue reading and numeracy clubs, and also by offering in-class support to foundation phase teachers.
This year, a number of our experienced Nobalisa team members journeyed to Amajingqi to share their knowledge by training new school-based Nobalisa for our Public School Partnership (PSP) project. Pamela Ndlandla - who has led the team and continues to be based in Amajingqi – shared about the experience.
“Firstly it was a little bit difficult,” Pam said about moving to a different rural area that in many ways is more isolated than Zithulele. “Moving from your comfort zone, going outside, meeting other people, sharing homes, and so on. Even at schools, meeting the new teachers who didn’t even understand what are we talking about. Meeting the kids that didn’t know what the Nobalisa programme is.”
It takes time for school communities to grow accustomed to the Nobalisa approach so there was much groundwork to do. This meant being in school daily instead of just a few times a week.
“Now I can say we are in the teacher industry,” Pam reflected, mentioning how school systems and structures are becoming ever clearer. “Now we know how to manage a class, how to manage a school, how to do teaching aids, what teachers do at school.”
“I’m very excited,” Pam said, when asked about training new Nobalisa once relationships and systems with schools were established. “What makes me excited is that when we train them, we saw the potential in them. They are interested in doing this in their rural areas, but they need someone to provide them with some information.”
“We were looking for people that are keen to do this. For people who want to change the situation in their rural areas, the people who want to dive in on the ground and make changes for kids, and the people who want to be role models in their own communities,” Pam continued.
As Pam says, Nobalisa can become leaders with a focus on education and learning. In Amajingqi, many children live with grandmothers as parents must seek work in urban areas. Pam noted that this causes a problem if grandmothers did not have the opportunity to be educated themselves because it limits their ability to support the child’s education. “If you have Nobalisa in that area, she or he can take over and go to that family, do home visits, want to know what’s happening,” Pam said.
To actualise this role, it is important to think beyond the classroom, identifying where families are struggling and trying to connect. Close observation becomes part of the Nobalisa’s role, noticing challenges both within and beyond the classroom.
Pam believes in uniting teachers, families and children around education. “Together we can build the future of that child, we can build their dreams,” she said. “We want the kids to be strong, independent and confident. We want them to know that even if they live in rural areas, they still have power to stand up and make changes in their own communities.”