At Mkoba 4 Primary School in Gweru, Zimbabwe, particular support is provided by ALERT and Antelope Park to assist in the school’s Special Needs classes. With one qualified teacher to host a class of 24 children with a variety of learning disabilities, aged between nine and 14, this practical help is appreciated. The classes aim to provide more individual attention to these students, helping them to achieve the standards required for national educational assessment.
During November, attention was given to comprehension and summary writing. Each session, a story was read from the Reader’s Digest Young Families series, after which students were tasked with orally describing what the book was about. This method assesses not only comprehension skills, but also the students’ pronunciation in English. To test their written grammar, students were then asked to write down answers to a set of comprehension questions, and were later given a spelling test.
As part of this topic, silent letters were introduced. Having been told what a silent letter is, for example, the ‘d’ in handkerchief and the ‘n’, students initially struggled. After more examples and the opportunity to practice themselves, they were able to grasp the concept. Revision of silent letters will form part of an upcoming book club session for these students to ensure that the subject is fully understood.
In last month’s book club, Group One focused on using ‘has’ and ‘have’ correctly, and verb tenses; adding ‘ed’ and ‘ing’. All students showed an improvement.
Also in Gweru, ALERT and Antelope Park support Mudavanhu School for the Disabled, which provides essential life skills and education for children with mild to moderate mental disability.
In Class Four, which has six students, recent lessons have focused on teaching counting from naught to ten, learning simple words containing vowels, and identifying objects using pictures.
The objectives for the lesson on counting were for students to be able to:
- Identify numbers on a number line
- Write numbers from naught to ten without assistance
- Write down dictated numbers without being able to see them
At first, some students struggled to remember the numbers in sequence, but with sufficient practice, all managed to master this and other tasks.
The objective of the next lesson on vowels was for students to be able to read ten simple words, for example: ‘ant’, ‘egg’, ‘apple’, ‘cup’, and ‘put’.
Again, students found this challenging at first, but most showed some improvement with extra revision. However, once images were introduced as a visual learning aid, there was a dramatic improvement; all six students remembered the words easily with the aid of the pictorial cues. Once they became confident with recognising the images and words together, the pictures were removed to assess whether students could still read the words without them. 70% of students were able to do so.
The 12 horse therapy students from Mudavanhu School attended two sessions at Antelope Park last month. Everyone is making good progress, but the highlight continues to be the two older boys, Tofara and Munyaradzi, who are mastering trotting lessons.
During a recent session, one of the other students fell off his horse. Instead of crying or giving up, as would have been expected previously, he picked himself up, gave his horse a hug, and got straight back in the saddle. All in attendance were proud of him for showing his bravery, confidence, and a genuine love for his horse. Another positive observation is that all 12 students now have a ‘favourite’ horse. As soon as they arrive at the stables, they make a beeline for their chosen horse and start grooming without being prompted.
Wednesday November 30th marked the last day of working with Mudavanhu in 2016. A Christmas party was organised to celebrate the students’ progress, and to thank Mudavanhu School for the strong relationship we have built up with them throughout the year.
About Book Club
English is the official language of both Zambia and Zimbabwe, and without good proficiency in English reading and writing, students will likely be excluded from many aspects of active citizenship, including employment opportunities. English proficiency also helps students to better understand all their school subjects, and to be able to tackle exams, which are given in English. In partnership with Coventry University, ALERT has established English literacy programs at weekly Book Clubs to improve children’s English literacy levels and foster a love of reading. Pupils attending book clubs are tested to establish their current reading age, and then tailored, locally appropriate, assistance is provided to improve literacy using educational materials from AXIS Education, TESSA and Happy Readers. A library system provides pupils access to a wide-range of reading level appropriate books.
About ALERT Education Centres (AEC)
English literacy courses are one aspect of the work of our ALERT Education Centres. The AEC operations at Livingstone (Zambia), Victoria Falls and Antelope Park (Zimbabwe) are all aimed at supporting the formal education system by offering extra-curricular activities to enhance student learning, and assisting with access to education for vulnerable students. Current programs include the provision of classes in conservation education, basic life skills, and English literacy. In addition, we provide funding to pay the fees of vulnerable students to take part in education from pre-school to university level, and fully funded internship and facilitated research placements for university level students. Future programmes will incorporate classes in numeracy, health & nutrition, physical education and business studies / entrepreneurship, as well as a variety of vocational training. The AEC is operated in association with Coventry University (UK), Midlands State University (Zimbabwe) and Copperbelt University (Zambia), and with the assistance of David Brackstone of John Taylor High School (UK). The first AEC, at Antelope Park, was opened in 2012 by the then Zimbabwe Minister of Education, Mr. David Coltart.
Join us at the AEC
- Those with some teaching experience can join our Teaching in Africa internship
- Researchers interested in assisting us assess AEC programmes can join our Research in the Community Internship
- If your interest is in teaching about conservation, you can also join the programme as a Conservation Education Intern
- Even if you have no teaching experience, there is still much you can do to help deliver our various courses as part of our volunteer programmes
Support the AEC
If you would like to support the activities of our AEC operations, please click here.