Volkswagen Group South Africa (VWSA) spends 84% of its CSI funds on education and youth development. Some 64% of that spend goes towards education, including the VW Legacy Literacy Programme that focuses on functional literacy of grade R to grade 3 learners.
Launched in 2015, the goal of the VW Legacy Literacy Programme is to ensure that learners in Kariega in the Eastern Cape are functionally literate by age ten or grade 3. It was established to equip learners with the resources necessary to be able to read with meaning, and teachers, parents, and caregivers with the skills needed to support their children in the classroom and at home.
Schools supported include James Ntungwana Primary School, Mngcunube Primary School, Ntlemeza Primary School, Noninzi Luzipho Primary School, Vuba Primary School, Nosipho Primary, and Melumzi Primary.
In 2020, after a review by Professor John Aitchison of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the programme was revised to focus more on mother-tongue fluency and building the capacity of teachers, who are an important element of what happens in the classroom. This second phase is implemented in collaboration with the Department of Basic Education, Rhodes University’s Centre for Social Development (CSD), Funda Wande, and Nal’ibali.
Why the focus on mother tongue literacy?
The VW Legacy Literacy Programme is grounded in the belief that children learn another language more easily if they are literate in their mother tongue. The objective is to increase the number of learners who are able to read with meaning in each grade, with a focus on improving letter-sound knowledge for Nguni language and Oral Reading Fluency.
Prof. Aitchison, who has done extensive work in understanding how children learn, maintains that if children are taught reading in their home language systematically and explicitly (and are at the same time motivated through pleasurable activities, hearing good books read aloud and gaining meaning from what they read) nearly all children, irrespective of their socioeconomic background, should be able to read at an acceptable level of fluency at the end of grade 1 in the African languages. Home language development supports learning sufficiently when it is used in a structured way alongside English for the rest of primary and secondary school.
There needs to be a systematic and deliberate comparison of terms and concepts in more than one language to build academic literacy so that learners can show their understanding rather than their ability to memorise facts in the school language. This is what the second phase of the VW Legacy Literacy Programme is aiming to achieve.
Building on the lessons learnt from the pilot, phase 2 places particular emphasis on:
1. Building the capacity of Foundation phase teachers and literacy ambassadors.
- • One of the main reasons for the reading crisis in South Africa is that teachers haven’t been given meaningful learning opportunities to acquire the specialised knowledge of teaching and assessing literacy in Nguni language.
The programme trains and mentors teachers in Advanced Certificate in Foundation Phase Literacy Teaching & Reading Academy course through Rhodes University and Funda Wande.
- Teaching educators the various components of reading (phonics, vocabulary, comprehension, fluency and motivation) and how these fit together into a cohesive whole. Teachers implement different reading methodologies such as oral reading fluency, group guided and shared reading, and individualised support for learners who are at risk of falling behind (grades 1–3).
- Provision of high-quality, age-appropriate books and reading materials.
- Mobilising a love for reading in the community through upskilling parents and caregivers, and establishing reading clubs.
- Intensifying the testing of reading proficiency through Early Grade Learning Assessments (EGRA) that help teachers identify the foundational decoding problems.
Pandemic challenges and learning losses
Just as phase 2 was being implemented, the global novel coronavirus pandemic hit. With contact restricted during various levels of lockdown, the VW Legacy Literacy Programme faced unexpected implementation challenges.
The new Wave 5 National Income Dynamics Study – Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (NIDS-CRAM) report reveals that children in quintile 1–3 schools are estimated to have lost almost a full year of learning. The average grade 3 child in June 2021 would have the same learning outcomes as the average grade 2 child in June 2019.
Responding to lockdown challenges: Moving the programme online
The ability to respond to school closures and support remote learning depends crucially on home learning environments, parental ability to support learning, connectivity, and digital skills. Unfortunately, not all South African families have these tools at their disposal. Moving a learning programme online in an under-resourced community presents multiple challenges. “Most households do not have the tools and tech needed, and if they do it is only the children, sometimes, who know how to use it,” said Nonkqubela Maliza Director Corporate & Government Affairs.
“We had people on the ground implementing these programmes,” said Vernon Naidoo, manager of the VW Community Trust. “We visited parents and caregivers in their homes. Literacy ambassadors were in schools teaching group-guided reading, learners attended sessions in the literacy centres, and literacy ambassadors, coaches and teachers attended in-person courses at Rhodes University.” This had to change during lockdown.
Some of the mitigating factors that VWSA has taken are the following:
- Purchased mobile libraries and increased book supply so learners are able to take books home
- Increased use of technology and online platforms as a training and monitoring tool to support literacy programmes
- Purchased laptops, provided data for the literacy ambassadors and equipped literacy centres and teachers with skills in order to support learners
- VWSA’s partners changed some of the teacher development training to online learning
- Provided psychosocial support to parents and caregivers, including assisting learners to obtain proper medical care for those who tested positive for Covid-19
- Food Relief: Donated highly nutritious meals for the families and the children in low-resourced ECD and literacy centres, who often receive their only meal of the day at the centre or at school
- Identified 13 schools in KwaNobuhle and two schools in Despatch to receive two water tanks each and water supply for hygiene purposes
- In order to provide a safe and hygienic environment in which to learn, VWSA repaired and upgraded the ablution facilities at five schools
Impact of the programme to date
- Trained more than 635 people to set up reading clubs and support children’s literacy development
- Supported more than 142 reading clubs, reaching more than 5 000 children
- Reached more than 66 774 people via events, campaigns and activations
- Established partnerships with two community radio stations
- Distributed more than 50 551 copies of the Nal’ibali bilingual supplements to the five project schools and partner organisations
Funda Wande & Rhodes CSD
- 41 teachers trained and mentored in the Advanced Certificate in Foundation Phase Literacy Teaching course
- VW employs a full-time Funda Wande Coach to work in the five schools to provide training, mentorship and expertise
- 25 literacy ambassadors trained on the ECD course as offered by Rhodes
- Established literacy centres in five primary schools
- Scaled up the project to add two more schools in 2021
- Employed 25 unemployed youth and trained them as literacy ambassadors or classroom assistants
- Provided over 70 mobile libraries, with books
- Supplied two water tanks each to 15 schools in KwaNobuhle township and Despatch
- Repaired and upgraded the ablution facilities at five schools in KwaNobuhle
VernonNaidoo | Manager VW Community Trust
041 994 4399 | email@example.com
vwsa.co.za | vwcommunitytrust.co.za