Hope for the future

 

The Future Sparks After School Programme update – Jenny Person

 

Future Sparks is an After School programme for children and youth  living in Westlake.

After School programmes provide learners with opportunities for enrichment in the academic, psycho-social and extra-curricular areas. Research has shown that After school programmes  reduce dropout rates in schools by motivating learners to stay in school through the sense of belonging and support given through personal relationships with tutors and this has a positive impact on future success of these learners. The vision for the programme is to continue working with the learners when they move on to and through their  High School years. This is a critical time when they move away from the safety of their local primary school and often have to travel long distances to reach their high schools. Dropout rates are unfortunately high, as a result of many barriers faced while attending these schools.

 


Dropout rates are unfortunately high, as a result of many barriers faced while attending these schools.


 

Future Sparks began in January 2020 with Grade 7 learners at Westlake Primary school, we enrolled just over  65 learners who became regular, enthusiastic attendees of the programme. A wonderful group of almost 20 volunteers  invested their time and energy into the programme, facilitating 4 sessions a week (Monday – Thursday) at the Primary school campus, using the hall and then classrooms for small group time. 

Each session was started with a healthy snack and register. On Mondays and Thursdays the learners focused on Math’s and English tutoring in small groups. On Tuesdays learners were able to choose one from  the following extra curricular activities: Drama, Singing or Soccer. On Wednesdays a life skills programme focusing on personal identity and growth was run by Ronald and his team.

The programme ran with high energy and great attendance for 7 weeks, there were some ups and down and curveballs to deal with as we adjusted the programme to suit the spaces and people we were working with. However,  with the increasing threat of the spread of Covid19 and imminent lock down we were  forced to stop the programme at the school.

 

It is hard to understand why a programme started in January, which ran for such a short time had to shut down, when we felt the call to start this programme so clearly in the latter half of 2019. But God knew this would happen, so we trust that through all the disappointment that we felt, God has a plan, and that we need to persevere and keep doing what we can, to stay connected to the learners.  

 


It is hard to understand why a programme started in January… But God knew this would happen, so we trust that through all the disappointment that we felt, God has a plan…


 

During the level 4 & 5 lockdown, thanks to a WhatsApp group which we had created for the parents we were able to communicate with the parents of our learners. This allowed us to hand out learning material for the grade 7’s that we could reach during the hard lockdown. We were not able to connect in a significant way  due to the restrictions, but we could at least provide something for them to do at home.  Once the grade 7’s were back at school we realised that we would still not be able to have face-to-face contact with them due to the Education Department restrictions on access to school property by outside groups. So we began to research what others tutoring programmes were doing during lockdown to reach their learners. It seemed that online tutoring through WhatsApp groups was the most effective way to connect although by no means easy or as effective. It took some time to get consent from the parents for their children to be contacted via cell phones, as this is a basic Child protection requirement. In the end we managed to get 50 learners into 8 WhatsApp groups to contact them and work with them twice a week. We were able to get maths material (videos and worksheets) from a generous Private Maths Tutoring company (Math&Me) which we could distribute via WhatsApp groups. FunDza (a non profit organization working in the literacy development) helped us through webinars to learn how to run reading groups using WhatsApp. So we began tutoring in August. This has been a challenging and new way of relating to the learners. Firstly, 50% of the learners do not have their own phone, so they rely on a family member’s phone which can only be accessed for use at a certain time, which makes it difficult to come on to the WhatsApp groups during the active time (usually 5-6:30pm on Mondays and Thursdays). Secondly data costs are a major issue for families who are struggling in the current economic climate to just provide for basic needs. There are also some learners who are shy and reticent in this online tutoring space. But we continue to try to support the learners and let them know that they’re seen and heard and that we are here for them.

 


But we continue to try to support the learners and let them know that they’re seen and heard and that we are here for them.


 

The Ubomi Charitable Trust was initiated and founded during lockdown, this is a legal Non Profit Trust entity that gives ministries inclusive of Future Hope ministry (formerly Future Life) the ability to fundraise more effectively for the needs of these ministries. Future Sparks is part of this trust.. A new Future Hope Ministries website was also developed by the team during lockdown and can be viewed here: https://www.futurehope.org.za/

 

Please pray for the Future Sparks programme, this year has not worked out the way we thought it would! But we’d so much like to continue our relationship with the learners in the years ahead, to nurture hope for the future and a desire for change by providing opportunities for growth in character and skills.  

 


Changing mindsets. Restoring hope. Re-imagining futures