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The growth of the nobalisa programme

The Nobalisa Programme is a reading project implemented in the Foundation Phase at three sites in Zithulele, Amajingqi and Coffee Bay Road, which currently employs just over 140 youth, through the Social Employment Fund (SEF).


Grade 1 learners, at letter reading, pointing at the “letter of the day” during a tarl lesson


In November 2022, we published a blog on Axium’s growth buzz where we shared that the Nobalisa programme plans to grow to 50 schools by 2025, reaching 7000 learners and providing an entry point to the workplace for more than 300 community-based staff - all powered by the Social Employment Fund. The target social impact of the programme is to enable at least 50% of Grade 3 children to read for meaning after three years in the Programme, an ambitious goal given that the national average is about a third of this.


Nobalisa facilitators during a tarl lesson with Grade 1s


One year in, we’re on track! We’ve made hugely positive strides since June 2022, onboarding 12 new schools across three micro-sites along the Coffee Bay Road - taking our total to 24 schools across two districts. While this expansion is focused on literacy and closing the reading gap, it is worth emphasizing the crucial role it is playing as an entry point to formal employment for the youth across our communities.


The recent launch at Coffee Bay Road was met with excitement by the local Chief Mr Dalasile Zwelinzima, the School Governing Bodies and the whole school community. One parent commented that: “the project is showing innovative ways of working with our children in smaller groups than what they are accustomed to in the classroom”. The Principal at Gonya Primary said, “Our classes are big and we do not have the capacity to deal with learners with remediation needs. This is a step towards positive outcomes”.



Nobalisa facilitators who have taken up mentorship roles, one being a curriculum coordinator


The expansion of the programme has also seen career growth among the Nobalisa Facilitators. Two school team leaders were promoted to Mentor roles in 2023, while six new school team leaders were appointed from within the Nobalisa team. These are emerging leaders of Axium Education and the involvement in the Nobalisa curriculum builds on the much needed literacy skills to bridge the learning backlogs in the country. The opportunities for growth are limitless as the programme continues to expand.


With the expansion of the Nobalisa Programme, Axium has also encountered challenges. One worth mentioning is the high turnover rate of the Nobalisa Facilitators employed through the Social Employment Fund (SEF). This is not unique to Axium; other organisations in the literacy space report high attrition rates in their SEF led interventions. The reason for this is that the SEF Facilitators are paid a nominal stipend and take the next most available opportunity for going into full-time study or employment. Our recent statistics show that 28% went into permanent employment, 26% into full-time study and 15% were absorbed by Axium Education. So in a way, the high attrition rate is positive, since the majority of staff who leave are going on to good things! Axium Education keeps a backup list of Facilitators to occupy vacant positions and invests in weekly training to ensure new facilitators maintain the expected standards of implementation.


As a country, we are facing a major crisis of learners who complete the Foundation Phase not being able to read for meaning. The 2021 PIRLS report shows that about 81% of learners in South Africa do not read with comprehension. Also, unemployment is rife in the country with as high as 80% of youth unemployed in rural communities. These problems require organisations that are solution orientated for the betterment of the future of South Africa. Axium Education through the Nobalisa Programme is responding to these national tragedies.


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