Early in 2018, Axium was chosen as the School Operating Partner for a four-year pilot project. Our role, broadly speaking, is to help improve the standard and quality of education within the Amajingqi area, which means working alongside the 7 primary schools and one high school in the area. We are now one year down the road and looking ahead to the rest of 2019 and beyond.
Speaking to the Axium team based at Amajingqi, we took some time to reflect on 2018: on what we have done, what we have learnt and where we are going. (Follow this link to read more about the inception of the Public School Partnerships (PSP) and the work done so far).
Overall, the measurable results from 2018 were encouraging and reflect something of the increased stability and support across the schools. Having said this, we are some way from the high-quality, high-performing learning environments we are aiming to create. A lack of comparative data from previous years is a frustration but we have still observed the following highlights:
Matric pass rate up from 32% in 2017 to between 55% and 71% in 2018 (depending on how you measure).
On the EGRA (Early Grade Reading Assessment), the percentage of students reading at Grade Level increased fourfold from 4% in May to 16% in November 2018. The percentage of non-readers decreased from 31% to 17% over the same time period.
On the EGMA (Early Grade Maths Assessment), which is now in its second year of testing, the number of children considered “competent” increased between May 2017 and May 2018 by 25% (for the Grade 1s of 2016) and 100% (for the Grade 1s of 2017). The number of children considered “innumerate” decreased between May 2017 and May 2018 by 64% (for the Grade 1s of 2016) and 79% (for the Grade 1s of 2017).
While the statistics were pleasing for the team they can by no means encompass the breadth of all that was achieved in 2018. Speaking to some of the things that are harder to measure the team was encouraged by what has been achieved and motivated about how much there is still to be done.
2018 was about laying the groundwork! For the past 14 months, since we stepped our first tentative steps, the team had been staying in accommodation that is almost an hour’s drive away from the centre of the project. As of the beginning of March the Axium team has accommodation and offices right next door to Dumalisile Comprehensive High School. This is a huge milestone for the team; not only does it make the day to day logistics easier, but it positions the team within the same community. As the Programme Manager, Nangamso Koza, states, this sends out a message of commitment: “We are here to stay!”
On top of laying structural foundations, the team has also been laying relational foundations in each of the 8 schools, building relationships and trust with the teachers and broader community, enabling the work they are doing to continue and to grow. Importantly we now have a coherent database of all of the learners in the 8 partner schools which will be used to aid all of our future work and to assist in measuring our impact.
Our goal for 2018 was to stabilize school operations by ensuring there is effective leadership and basic resourcing at all schools, so that a supportive environment for teaching and learning can be created. Stabilizing structures in schools has taken on many different shapes and forms. From working alongside governance, leadership and management, to painting and upgrading classrooms, our work has been varied. We’ve procured calculators and text books amongst other resources and have tried to create not just safe, but magical (more on this in a future blog) learning spaces. Our Amajingqi Nobalisa team has grown to 14 members who not only engage with young learners in the foundation phase (grade 1-3) but are forming relationships with teachers, parents and guardians.
Many of the structures are now in place for deeper work to begin. Our next goal is to increase the quantity and quality of learning time with a focus on core routines of schools, teachers and lessons. There is a lot still to be done, and many challenges lie ahead. However, our team and the larger community are ready to work together in order to build on the foundations of last year.