Nelson Mandela has said “Education is the most powerful weapon by which you can change the world.” iThemba Projects is trying to change the lives of children in Mpumuza through education. They are starting by working from the lowest levels of education to the highest.
Did you realize that the first 6 years of a child’s life are so critical for their mental, emotional, social and physical development that if they are not stimulated and exposed to new ways of thinking at this age, it is almost impossible for them to catch up to their counterparts? Even if they have access to excellent primary and highschool education, if they have not aquired those foundation phase skills, it sometimes does not make a difference.
iThemba is working with 15 different preschool teachers in Sweetwaters/Mpumuza area, and they constantly receive requests to start working in new schools. Many of these teachers have had no training in Early Childhood Education, and are overwhelmed with trying to feed and entertain these young kids in tiny facilities. This week I was with Justina, our current short-term worker from the UK, visiting a preschool in Sweetwaters that iThemba has just started working with. In a 40-square-foot room, there were 19 three to five year olds, packed together to stay out of the rain. The two ladies running the preschool were so busy cooking food and wiping noses, not much education happened that day.
However, teachers that are partnering with iThemba now have access to supplies they can borrow from iThemba’s resource library. They have access to curicculum, and are coached in how to use it. They recieve points every quarter for their progress: points for artwork on the walls, points for different activity areas, points for following the curriculum, just to name a few–and these points can be spent at the resource shop at their quarterly teacher training workshops. It’s so exciting for us to see these teachers progress.
In a recent evaluation, students from iThemba preschools performed 30% higher than other kindergarteners on basic skills tests.
Justina is also helping teach English at the primary and high school level in Mpumuza. Right now, she is using debate to help the 10th and 11th graders gain confidence in their writing and speaking abilities–and the kids love it! (see photo above).
Education is a powerful weapon to change the world–but it is weak on its own. If people’s education increases, but their moral stature does not, then iThemba is just helping to equip people to be more clever in their wickedness. That’s why I am so glad that iThemba’s education program is just one part of their community development project. It is our prayer that through iThemba that the people of Mpumuza will find not just restoration from physical and educational poverty, but from spiritual poverty as well.
Pray for Justina— follow the blog of her time here at: deathofthewriter.wordpress.com
Pray for the teacher training programs as well as for the English lessons–that children and teachers would be equipped for the future. Pray also that God would send equipped staff to work with iThemba on this initiative–as right now iThemba is working at their capacity and still receiving requests for more help.