An Update from our School Development Programs in Zimbabwe
October 31 2016

Students at the Chinotimba Pre-School in Victoria Falls are continuing to develop their skills in learning the alphabet, colours, shapes and numbers.  ALERT staff and volunteers assist the teachers and their students to learning through song, dance, and other art forms, which has certainly allowed these students to flourish.  Their test results continue to improve, as we near graduation towards the end of the academic year. 

Learning the English alphabet requires knowledge of both the symbol representing each letter, and the phonetic sound associated with it.  ALERT has been assisting teachers with these lessons, and this past week had the privilege of being part of a song-and-dance lesson, when the students proudly recited their newfound alphabet skills.  Next, the children were given a worksheet and asked to recognise different shapes in a variety of sizes and orientations, before colouring them in a specific colour.  Students were then split into groups to pass the sheets around and identify each shape and the colour associated with it, reinforcing the learning through repetition.

Students at this young age learn best through play, using a variety of activities to stimulate their brains. Mixing these activities with interactive games and singing enables them to stay motivated.  ALERT and our partners at African Impact work closely with Mrs Nyathi, the Chinotimba Pre-School teacher, to encourage the utilisation of these themes in her classroom, and we are pleased to see that the students are reaping the rewards.

During October, the 12 students from Mudavanhu School visited Antelope Park stables four times for horse therapy sessions.  Activities on horseback involved sitting on the horse with a saddle, changing positions on the horse, lying on horseback at standstill, stretching exercises, and also balancing and changing positions while the horse trotted.  In addition to this, and the standard grooming sessions held every visit, students were also engaged in playing card games, face painting, and colouring activities.  These activities were introduced to help enhance social-interactive skills and also improve fine motor skills, as most students struggle with basic skills, such as writing using a pencil.

Two students, Tofara and Munyaradzi, both around 17 years old, are performing exceptionally well.  They have mastered the skills so effectively, they are now able to assist their peers during grooming.  Standing with the younger students, they help them with the resources they need to use, giving them encouragement and boosting their confidence during the whole process. 

As a result of their progress, a more challenging activity was introduced specifically for these two students; trotting on horseback, with just one person leading the horse.  This proved to be a real adventure.  Ordinarily, a volunteer would walk either side of the horse.  The new challenge was getting used to having only one person leading the horse.  After a time, the volunteers handed the reins over to the students, so that they were in full control; like letting go of the bicycle of a child learning to ride.  This was done to give the boys more confidence in themselves and their abilities.  Initially, the reaction was a mixture of joy and fear, but with more sessions of this nature with these advanced students, we anticipate that joy will quickly overcome any fear.

Mudavanhu School for the Disabled specialises in providing essential life skills and education for children with mild to moderate mental disability.  ALERT, through our ACT division and with our partner Antelope Park provide manpower and material support to this school.  Personnel in the form of ALERT/AP staff and volunteers assist the teaching staff by providing pupils with more individual attention during lessons/programs.   Horse Therapy was introduced with the aim of using horse riding as a rehabilitative treatment, with the primary focus being posture and movement response. The horse provides a dynamic base of support, making it an excellent tool for increasing trunk strength, balance, endurance and co-ordination.

Our aim is to increase the capacity of the schools with which we work to offer higher learning possibilities for their pupils.  All the schools surrounding our project sites are severely resource limited, with classes that are over-crowded and lacking educational materials.  Our projects therefore focus on: school building and refurbishment to create improved learning environments; resource provision of educational materials needed to enhance lessons, and teacher assistance to help teachers plan and run lessons more effectively.  All programmes are operated in agreement with the school in question, and with approval from relevant educational boards.

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