Sizabantwana Report for 2015

This has been a busy and productive year for Sizabantwana. 2015 saw the launch of our own website . The website shows footage of some of our educators in action, highlights meeting and workshop dates and features photographs of speakers at the various meetings. It also provides a vehicle whereby volunteers and donors can get involved with the project. In addition to the website, this year heralded a partnership with Litres for Education whereby drivers who fill up with fuel at participating service stations can select Sizabantwana as a beneficiary resulting in the Sizabantwana project receiving a portion of the fuel spend back in funding. In addition to these innovations, fifteen meetings were held during the year and members were offered the opportunity to participate in workshops and conferences.

Our first two meetings of the year featured Natalie Hutton, an intern educational psychologist from Hummingbird Education, who conducted a workshop with our members on phonics and reading difficulties. Natalie demonstrated how to teach phonics to learners and also showed members how to make their own simple reading books and resources. Natalie then piloted a reading programme at Eastwood Primary school, using University students to teach reading to the learners. This programme was well received and teachers at Eastwood are hoping to continue it in some form next year.

The speaker for our 3rd meeting was inspirational speaker and personal development coach, Phephelani Zondi. He spoke to our members about leaving a legacy behind after they are gone. Members were deeply moved by his poetry and his message and felt inspired to make a difference in the lives of their learners.

Outreach officers, Paulos and Abigail, from the SPCA spoke to our members about strategies to prevent animal cruelty amongst youth at our 4th meeting. Members learnt about animal rights and how to educate learners about these. They were also made aware of educational programmes that the SPCA offers to schools.

Counselling Psychologist and UKZN lecturer from Howard campus, Kerry Frizelle, chaired out 5th meeting. She spoke to our members about her Positive Period Project which entails providing reusable, washable sanitary wear packs to learners thereby increasing their monthly school attendance as well as providing information about the female body and menstrual cycle to help educate both boys and girls. Kerry’s talk was humorous and honest which resulted in a discussion around menstruation issues learners might encounter in schools. The talk was well received with members inquiring how they could access the packs for their learners.

NGO, Singakwenza, provided a Waste to Toys workshop at our 6th meeting. Julie Hay, their director, demonstrated how to use household waste to make classroom resources. Julie also explained the advantages to fine and gross motor skills of using these resources. Members really enjoyed this workshop and took away with them a number of ideas to implement in the classroom. Several members shared pictures and success stories of the resources which they had later made/used with their learners.

Our 7th meeting featured social worker, Thobeka Mthembu, from Pmb Mental Health Society. She spoke to our members about common learning disabilities, how to screen for mental health in the classroom and how and where to refer learners for assessment or placement.

Singakwenza Occupational Therapist, Magdel Hounsem, spoke to our members at our 8th meeting, about issues to look out for in learners. She detailed “red flags” which might require OT referral in the areas of movement, trauma, play, the senses and at school. She provided members with laminated summary sheets of these “red flage” areas as well as details of local clinics which OT’s operate in.

Thobeka Mthembu, social worker from Pmb Mental Health Society returned on our 9th meeting to speak to members about various forms of severe mental illness and the symptoms of these. She focussed particularly on Schizophrenia and discussed what symptoms members might observe and where to refer for assessment.

Julie Hay, director of Singakwenza, and her team returned on our 10th meeting to demonstrate how to make further educational resources from recycled materials. This was a more in depth session which focussed specifically on the motivation for providing children with opportunities to use various muscles and experience various types of learning and the benefits to the child in later years. Julie also showed members how to adapt and extend basic resources to accommodate a variety of age groups and abilities. This session was educational as well as enjoyable and members again implemented her ideas almost immediately, sharing results with the group.

Our 11th meeting featured Alex and Zinandi, intern educational psychologists from the Child and Family Centre at UKZN, Pmb. Alex and Zinandi, explained the services that the CFC provides, how learners and their families could benefit from these services and the process to follow in booking (and paying) for an appointment. Alex and Zinandi stressed how psychological assessment is a tool which educators and families can use to help understand the big picture of what is happening in a child’s world but how developing a treatment plan is a partnership which entails input from all parties and must be practical and easy to follow for those who need to use it.

Varsha Haridass, a social worker from Child Welfare, addressed our members at our 12th meeting. She gave a brief history of the Child Welfare as well as the areas in which they operate and the work that they do. Members had many questions and individual cases which they shared with Varsha. She explained the process Child Welfare would follow when investigating claims of abuse or neglect and how Child Welfare would always try to work with a family for the good of the child with removal from the family as the last resort. Members were grateful to have this referral.

At our 13th meeting Michelle Smith, a counsellor from the Jess Foord foundation, and two other members came to speak to members about rape awareness. Members were shown a video about Jess Foord’s experience which ended with her determination not to allow the rape to steal any more moments from her life. The counsellors spoke about practical advice to give someone who has been raped like putting clothes in a paper bag, not washing away evidence and where to go to get help. They also detailed rape survivor’s rights and outlined the process that should be followed by the authorities e.g. sealing the evidence bag at the rape care facility so that the evidence is admissible in court. They discussed the need to get to a care facility as soon as possible and explained the action of PEP’s and the need for this time frame. Counsellor’s also outlined the counselling services they provide and the educational talks they provide to schools and communities. Members were very moved by Jess’s courage and had lots of questions about individuals they knew who had experienced rape. The counsellors also mentioned organisations they partner with who could also be contacted for assistance.

Our 14th meeting featured Taryn-Lee Olivier, a social worker from FAMSA, who spoke to us about domestic violence. Members learnt that domestic violence is a choice by perpetrators and that there are legal consequences for it. Taryn also explained that while alcohol or drugs might exacerbate an abuser’s behaviour, they cannot be blamed for it and that abusers are always responsible for their actions. Taryn explained what constitutes domestic violence and highlighted that educators have a legal responsibility to report any suspicion of abuse of minors. She discussed how FAMSA works with families and children and how members could access their services. Members had many questions about abuse, particularly sexual abuse, and how to deal with the situations they had encountered.

Nonku, a social worker from Childline Pmb, spoke to members at our final meeting. Nonku explained the various forms that abuse can take and explained the legal definition of child abuse. She also reminded members of their responsibility to protect children in their care and to report any suspicion of abuse. Nonku explained about the confidential toll free counselling line available to children and also face to face counselling that Childline offers. Many members discussed cases of learners in their classes with Nonku and she gave appropriate advice, often offering to attend the school and workshop with individuals and groups. This was a very valuable session to educators and a contact which I am confident will be well used.

The Sizabantwana Project also offered members the opportunity to attend specialist workshops this year. The first workshop was run by Dlalanathi and focussed on using play to engage in grief and bereavement therapy with children. This workshop consisted of 3 sessions held over the course of the year with each session building on skills acquired from the level below. Each session lasted approximately 3 days to a week and 11 educators attended the entire workshop in total. Members who attended were deeply grateful for the personal growth that this workshop brought to their lives as well as the skills which they were able to bring into play with their learners. Members related emotional incidents of progress with learners due to their attendance at this workshop.

Beryl Lourens the director from The Centre for Lifelong Learning offered a workshop to members on different learning styles. She explained the different styles and suggested how classroom activities could be adapted to accommodate all styles. She then demonstrated how to make versatile and interactive resources which could be used for several learning styles. Members found this workshop informative and valuable. They particularly enjoyed making the resources and suggested several amendments which they could introduce to adapt them for other subjects.

The Psychology Masters students organised a Self-Development workshop for members during the June/July holidays. This two-day workshop consisted of advice from a guest speaker on the importance of looking after oneself when in a helping profession as well as ideas on how to do this. Members learnt about meditation and massage as well as empathy. In addition each member completed the Keirsey Temperament Sorter and received an individualised feedback sheet on their personality type and the relevance of this to various areas of their lives. Members thoroughly enjoyed this workshop and felt that they had learnt valuable skills to better understand themselves and others as well as how to care for themselves during stressful times.

Finally thirteen of our members attend a 2-day Reading to Learn Africa Conference in August. This conference demonstrated various innovative ways to teach reading in the classroom and featured speakers from South Africa and abroad. Members were inspired by what they learnt at the conference and were very grateful for the opportunity to have attended. Many members requested further workshops with RtL SA and the details of this are being considered for 2016.

Our Sizabantwana year ended with two enjoyable functions. The first was our annual Christmas party which was held at UKZN. This was attended by 30 members and was an opportunity to thank members for their hard work and commitment during the year as well as to celebrate the triumphs and successes of the project during 2016. The function was enjoyed by all.

Our final event of 2015 was our annual retreat which was held at Hebron Haven hotel in Lions River. Many of our members seldom experience the luxury of a night away from home and responsibilities and thus this event is something which is eagerly anticipated. The retreat gives members an opportunity to rest and to focus on themselves. It is a chance for our members to come together as a group, to celebrate the project and one another. It is a time to reflect on the successes of the year and a time to think about the year to come. Members thoroughly enjoyed their night away and relished the solidarity they experienced with fellow members. They reported that this was a wonderful close to a fantastic year.

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