Growing up in a disadvantaged community is never easy. The odds are almost always stacked against you.
In 1985, I was in Grade 1 at Caravelle Primary in Mitchell’s Plain, Cape Town. That same year, the government declared a State of Emergency, and in the Western Cape, about 500 coloured schools and colleges were closed, including my primary school. Despite the tumultuous times, the one thing I had going for me while growing up was my love for reading.
My working-class parents ensured that we visited the library regularly and nurtured my love for reading. It is no coincidence that I ended up pursuing a career in journalism and now hold the position of senior editor on little issue, a free quarterly magazine for South African learners in grades R to 3.
little issue, which is a collaborative initiative of The Big Issue organisation and Mikateko Media, provides foundation phase learners with fun, interactive learning material that supports their early learning journey. The content is aligned to three learning areas, namely, Language, Mathematics and Life Skills, which stem from the Department of Basic Education’s National Curriculum Framework for the foundation phase. Each spread is carefully crafted and thoroughly interrogated to ensure that the content stimulate the little readers’ imaginations and prompt them explore the outcomes of each learning area.
Now in its second year, the magazine is available for free to learners at 31 schools in the Tshwane South District and 16 schools in the Western Cape Metro South District. It will be rolled out for free to schools in other provinces in a phased approach until September 2024. It is also available (free and paid) via national networks of early learning and literacy organisations in South Africa.
While the closure of schools in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic cannot be compared to that of the closures during the State of Emergency in 1985, there is no doubt that the impact will be experienced long after schools return to normal. Around 78% of South African Grade 4 learners cannot read with understanding. Furthermore, three-quarters of grade 4 learners in the country come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
This stark reality, coupled with the exacerbating impact of the closure of schools during the national lockdown, calls for urgent interventions in the field of early childhood learning.
little issue is changing the way learners in Grade R to 3 interact with learning materials in the classroom. Moreover, it is shining light into a somewhat dark tunnel for foundation phase learners in South Africa.
Author: Alicia English
How you can get involved
Join us on this wonderful journey to nurture young minds by sponsoring schools to receive a
minimum of 100 copies four times a year. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org