Dolls from Uthando in Australia are distributed to the teachers
The Power of a Doll
Often people do not appreciate the smaller things in life. The power of a gift, especially a doll in the life of a child who may have none. Many of the children that attend the schools our educators teach at come from improverished homes where luxuries like toys are at the bottom of the list. For this reason Sizabantwana teamed up with a Pietermaritzburg based organisation called dlalanathi and Australian doll makers Uthando. Who organized a large number of hand made dolls to be distributed to the schools for the children. These dolls are sent from Australia and are often made by school children there to give to children here. The joy and happiness that has been seen from receiving these dolls cannot be described in words.
Addressing learning difficulties
Educators have been equipped with techniques to identify and assist children with learning difficulties in their classrooms. In addition Sizabantwana members now practice active teaching methods where children are actively involved in their own learning – a stark contrast to the old ‘chalk and talk’ methods.
One of the realities of poverty conditions is that children come to school hungry and therefore struggle to learn in class. Albert Modi, a seed scientist at UKZN, assisted the schools with starting vegetable gardens – this has been exceptionally successful. These vegetables are used to supplement the school feeding scheme, and any excess is sent home with children who have been identified as particularly needy.
Edendale Hospital Collaboration:
The frustration of the educators in trying to access health care services for their learners has been greatly relieved through a collaboration with the Edendale Hospital Paediatric Department. The doctors in this department agreed to see patients who came with a referral letter from a Sizabantwana educator. Educators would be responsible for providing a clear motivation for why the child needed medical attention, including a description of the symptoms observed and the previous attempts to have this matter resolved. As a result of this collaboration children with eyesight, hearing, physical disabilities have been assisted. Others with infectious diseases have been treated effectively. Ear infections, skin problems (scabies) and even mental retardation have been managed in such a way that children have been able to access resources previously unavailable.
Turning the Tide
Power dynamics remain a challenge particularly in post-apartheid Africa. People grew up learning to privilege white perspectives in a white dominated society. Part of the function of the group is to dismantle this discourse by the educators taking ownership of the Project and valuing themselves as experts in their own contexts. Previously, the Project relied greatly on the input of outside experts in dealing with various issues. However, the educators have now recognized their own value and offer workshops to educate Sizabantwana and other community members. In addition, the psychologist from UKZN who played a central role in the beginning of the project is now merely an advisor. The Sizabantwana members have, thus, taken ownership of the Project and the power dynamics between the university and the community have been lessened.