The children come from a diverse cultural background: whether they are from South Africa or refugees from broader Africa, they all have a history which is hard for us to understand and comprehend. Besides their appalling living conditions and family lives, these children are survivors against all odds.
Drugs, stabbing, rape, TB, AIDS, xenophobic attacks are all part of their daily life. Stability, love and support are words that do not form part of their world – this is what HELP is adamant in providing besides making sure that the children are provided with food.
The children are therefore often wary of an adult, in many cases they have little perception of trust and find it difficult to communicate.
BUT most important of all, these children have not necessarily had the luxury of stimulation and encouragement during their four formative years. Very few of them have ever been read bedtime stories, or had a parent who will show/teach them different shapes, colours, numbers which are all essential elements for basic education.
As a result, once these children come to school (7 years old), they often find it hard to adjust to sitting still, having to share an eraser and listen to instructions. The school syllabus presents not only totally new concepts, but the lessons are also given in a foreign language, English. English is often the children’s third or even fourth language.
However, HELP has given these children a new chance.
In the six and a half years that we have been operational, we have achieved not only academic results, but a complete turn-around of the HELP children’s results.
The HELP children have far more confidence and are now not afraid to ask questions, to voice their opinions and, generally speaking, have improved in their social skills with regard to their fellow pupils.
Academically it is difficult to put definite percentages on the improvements but it would be fair to say that the children, under our guidance, have achieved between 40-50% increases in their marks. This is due to their now understanding the questions, having a better grip on the English language and having the confidence to try and answer a question.
Giving a bit of HELP’s history. In July 2011, two Grade 6 students joined HELP, barely able to read or write English. Through due diligence on their part, and loving support on ours, they were offered a 50% bursary to a high school college. True to their work ethic and dedication, they are excelling and one of the students is the top performing Maths student whilst the other one is top in English in her grade.
At the beginning of 2016 one of our star learners from Capricorn Primary won a full scholarship to attend Rondebosch Boys’ High School and he is achieving high marks and keeping up well with the other learners. We are very proud of him.
Working with children is a very rewarding job and watching their progress on many levels is highly satisfying. Seeing their struggles when they first start at HELP and then, when they leave, they are so much more confident and self-assured. This inspires us to continue with our program as there are also many difficulties to overcome. It is imperative to form a relationship of trust and reliability with the children.
We have a huge amount to thank our volunteers for, because, without them, HELP would not be able to sustain the large number of students that we assist. Our volunteers are dedicated and sincere, committed and trustworthy and as such they are wonderful role models to our young children.
Due to laws regarding the privacy of children, we are not able to name these learners.