The Hout Bay Educational Trust (ABC For Life) based in the Western Cape (South Africa) was created to address the need for quality educational support in English and Mathematics, for learners who are struggling in disadvantaged communities. Since it was founded in 2007, ABC for Life has been building communities in which all children are equipped with the skills and knowledge to become productive members of society. Through its Literacy and numeracy support, ABC for Life empowers learners with the skills and self-confidence to achieve their academic potential and embrace education as the key to their future.
ABC for Life has seen that learners from impoverished communities experience a “learning gap” that becomes entrenched during the first three years of primary school. At Sentinel Primary, Hout Bay – as in many other primary schools across South Africa – struggling learners often pass onto the next grade although they have not mastered the minimum skills or academic results required. This places them at a disadvantage as they move through school. With up to 60 learners per class, teachers struggle to give these learners the extra attention and support they need to thrive. Afrikaans learners tend to struggle even more than their English-speaking peers. The result is that these children fall behind and often drop out of school completely.
ABC For Life, supports primary school learners who are 1-2 years behind in English, Maths, and/or Afrikaans back to achieve an age-appropriate level within 12-18 months. They reintegrate children back into mainstream schooling and prevent school dropout. Their approach is unique because it is designed to catch and counter so-called “learning deficits” before they accumulate. Over twelve years their research-based evidence has showed that their “catch-up” and “teaching at the right level” approaches really work and reintegrate children back into the school system, giving them a chance to succeed and experience academic success.
ABC for Life have developed their own teaching materials that can be aligned to any curriculum or examination system. Their materials are designed to nurture a learner’s emotional wellbeing, create a safe space by affirming their value, and treat them with empathy and respect. They never have more than ten learners per session which allows each child to receive a much more personal learning experience. This is contrasted with the public system where there are up to 60 students per class.
ABC for Life conduct “before and after” tests for all their learners to evaluate students learning after every five hours of teaching and ensure that the skills covered have been mastered. This process ensures that students experience success in the program at regular intervals, and remain motivated and confident. Their teachers receive intensive training and are monitored on an ongoing basis.
At the beginning of the academic year, Sentinel Primary School refers learners who are failing in the key skills areas of English, Maths, and Afrikaans to ABC for Life. ABC for Life then carry out pre-tests to find out the level of each learner.
Based on their ability, learners are put into small groups of between 6 and 10 children who participate in two or three additional 45 minutes classes per week. At the end of the year, they carry out post-tests to determine how learners have caught up. They compare these results to the Department of Education’s Assessment. If they achieve 50% or more, they return the students to their correct grade, but learners who are not ready to return participate in another term of the program. Children who are returned to mainstream education are tracked continuously to monitor their progress.
Love of Reading Programme
In partnership with local volunteers, ABC for Life improve learners’ reading level which leads to an improvement in academic achievement. Reading helps improve concentration, cultivates a love of books, broadens children’s worldview, and opens critical and analytical thinking skills. They use graded reading books in two half-hour sessions each week, which totals 38 hours of reading time per year. Their reading sessions are one-on-one or paired sessions, so each student receives a great deal of personal attention, just what they need to achieve a significant improvement in their reading skills.
After School Programme
Their After School program is run by volunteers. They give homework support and also use educational games and toys to help the students learn through fun. Whilst doing this, ABC for Life are also keeping the children safe and off the streets.
Roll Out Programme
ABC for Life is spreading its wings and reaching out to more learners in the Western Cape by rolling out its program material and training educators from different schools.
The Current Challenge
The pandemic has upended entire education systems with an estimate of 100 school days missed in 2020 and part of 2021, leaving most learners with huge gaps in their school work. Most of them are now very distressed and are under pressure, therefore need urgent assistance.
There is an urgent need for Interventions to be adapted and scaled to benefit the most underserved and to ensure equality of opportunity for all. Should there be no intervention program to help these learners to catch up on their schoolwork, they will continue falling behind and likely, drop out of school.
ABC For Life Goals
ABC for Life believes that every child deserves a good education and a strong foundation built by literacy and numeracy support which will go a long way in creating a better future for children. Its immediate goals are to:
Transform the prospects of some of South Africa’s most vulnerable children in 3 schools through literacy and numeracy support.
Assist 450 learners to catch up and bridge the gaps in their school work using specially developed materials that are tailor-made to address learner’s current needs.
Like many charitable organisation, ABC for Life’s income has been heavily impacted by the Pandemic. The organisation urgently needs funding to continue to support hundreds of learners who without support are in the likelihood of dropping out of school and end up engaging in destructive behavior such as crime, drug abuse and theft.
Their plea is Please donate any amount. No amount is too small. By donating to our work, you are sponsoring a child’s education and reducing children who drop out of school. You are giving hope to the hopeless and a chance for them to succeed in their future.
In The Spotlight with Gailyn Young,
Founder of ABC for Life
How did the idea of ABC for life come about?
14 years ago a friend had a street child come to her office over and over again asking for food. He was not in school and couldn't read or write at the age of 11. She knew that I was a teacher and asked me if I would be prepared to teach him at the local school if he got accepted. I have always had a heart for the underprivileged so took it up as a challenge. Another friend trained me up with her specialized English programme and I started in the school staff room. These 2 friends are still involved to this day and are the Trustees. Many of the teachers saw his progress and asked if more children could join. I then started a group of 7 children teaching them to read and write. And that is when ABC for life started. We have been donated 3 classrooms and an office and over the past 14 years have reached thousands of children. Over the years we have created learning materials for each age group depending where the child is at academically. We do a diagnostic test on all the children at the beginning and another one at the end of the year to measure there achievements and to place them in the right group. As of today we are now reaching out at 3 schools and hope to grow especially since Covid 19 has hit. Many of these children have lost out on over 150 days of schooling in the past year and a half. ABC for life plays a pivotal role and its services are needed now more than ever .
What makes your work special?
My work is special as I get to see beautiful happy children everyday who have nothing but are still so eager to learn. It amazes me to see how excited they get when they see me come in to the class and deep down I know there situations at home. My work is so special especially when I get big big hugs from the children and when I see their faces light up when I come into the class. It is special as every day I leave work with a smile on my face knowing I have made a difference in life.
What has been the most inspiring story you have seen as a result of the work you are doing?
My most inspriring story is of a lovely boy I taught when he was 10 years old. He struggled with reading and writing. He was a child that came to every one of my classes and never missed a day. He was so eager to learn that I even gave him extra lessons after school as I could see that he wanted to learn. His marks improved and the teachers were all amazed at his results. He was a very creative boy and love arts. Due to his work at school and coming to ABC for life he got into art school and has been sponsored to go overseas. We had a fundraising event a year ago and he was the one who got up and spoke about his road with ABC for life and how far he has come.
What is a typical day for you and your team?
A typical day for my team is going into one of the 3 schools where we teach and teach 4 classes. Due to covid the classes have been split in half so one group comes on one day and the other group on another day. Normally there are 45 children in a class but that is now halved due to covid. We use our specialized materials to teach each class and make the lesson fun, exciting using lots of different resources to keep the children engaged and eager to learn. The teachers observe our lessons as they learn at the same time. During the morning we meet with the teachers when we can and discuss anything that needs to be discussed. Every day is so different depending on what school we go to and what children we are teaching.
What would you do with an unrestricted donation of £10,000?
With 10 000 pounds I would like to use it to reach out to a fourth school who is in great need of help. I would also like to make sure that each child that ABC for life teaches has their own work book ( currently we are just photocopying each lesson at the school) due to finances. I would also like to make sure that each child we teach has their very own pencil or pen. Many of these children don't have anything and I just want them to feel proud by owning their very own pencil. Last year when someone donated pencils for a class, it was like Christmas. I wish I could have taken a photo of the excitement in their faces.
What is the biggest challenge you face?
Our biggest challenge is funding. Since the Pandemic began, ABC for life is needed more than ever to help the children catch up on all their lost work and to help them not fall further behind or drop out of school altogether. Yet funding has been massively impacted by the pandemic.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
I get out in the morning as I am so excited to go and teach my lesson to all these wonderful children who so need the support but also who so want it. I love the feeling it gives me every day seeing a child grasp a concept or learn something new. I love knowing I love my job and that is makes me love the children at the same time.