For some of our orphaned and vulnerable children in Alexandra school is a daily battle. Due to the trauma and lack of parenting/support they have suffered, many of them have missed out on the foundation of education. They spend a huge amount of energy trying to hide the fact that they don’t understand, not wanting to be embarrassed or shamed. Consequently, they continue to fail year after year but eventually get pushed up to the next grade without ever learning the basics. Over the last year through our observations and one-on-one work with children at homework club, as well as input from teachers and school reports, we have been identifying children who desperately need additional help.
An example is a child who was orphaned earlier this year and came onto the Rays of Hope CHH (Child-Headed Households) program a few months ago. We had begun to notice that she was very behind in understanding simple numbers and letter recognition even though she is in grade 4. On one occasion she came to homework club distressed that she couldn’t do her maths homework and worried because she would get in trouble. As we sat with her and looked at the work we realised she was being asked to do complicated multiplication and division worded in a paragraph type question; we sadly knew however, that this particular child had not even grasped the concept of adding single digit numbers or recognising the alphabet. It is heart-breaking to see a child in such a state and knowing that in an hour at homework club each day, we cannot possibly bridge the gap. The students are in class sizes of up to 75 children so the teachers at school have no time or availability to focus on an individual who is falling behind.
Enter Sparrow Foundation School in Melville who work on the basis that there is ‘space for every pace’, not giving up on those who have fallen behind in other settings. In August and September were able to have 10 of our orphaned children assessed. We were initially discouraged because three of the children were found to be so far behind that they were two grades below the lowest special needs learners of their age. Praise God for this amazing school and their director Jackie Gallagher’s commitment to wanting to accommodate these learners. The school decided to open a special class specifically for these three children which would take them back and instil the foundations they have missed. The other seven children were accepted into the remedial and special needs stream, with regular assessment so that if they reach a point of catching up they can go back into mainstream education.
On 10th October, the ten children arrived at Sparrow with their guardians who were provided with a tour of the school. Sparrow kindly gave the children second hand uniform so they really looked the part. It was so wonderful watching their faces grow more confident as they proudly put on their new jerseys. Today marks the beginning of 10 new journeys where the children will be able to access individualised educational support, speech and occupational therapy as well as counselling to address the emotional trauma they have each been through. With big smiles on their faces the children’s accounts of their first day ranged from an enthusiastic ‘GREAT!’ to ‘the teachers at Sparrow are nice and caring and give us the attention we need’.
We are so grateful to Sparrow school for accommodating our children, we wholeheartedly thank our donors who have generously funded the school fees for the remainder of 2016 and 2017. Most importantly, we give all glory to God who does not let even a sparrow fall to the ground without his consent and consistently shows us that he has numbered the hairs on our precious children’s heads and cares for each one immeasurably.
Many thanks to all the people involved through Rays of Hope and the Child-Headed Households project and for the generous donors for their labour of love in Alexandra. It is inspiring to see our members sent out to be a Redemptive Influence in our city!