In the quest to find solutions to early-grade literacy challenges, in the past decade the Zenex Foundation has developed and supported five early-grade projects (pilot projects, large-scale proof of concept projects and a few systemic initiatives). Drawing from these lessons, as well as from specific Early Grade Reading Studies undertaken by the DBE, this initiative supports an early-grade scale-up literacy project in the Northern Cape. The project focuses on supporting African languages (Home Language: Setswana) and English First Additional Language (EFAL) for Foundation Phase teachers and learners in 188 schools based in the two most populated provincial districts (Frances Baard and John Taolo Gaetsewe).
This Project is a partnership between the Zenex Foundation, the Northern Cape Department of Education and UNICEF, all of whom participated in designing its terms of reference.
Phase One runs between October 2023 and December 2025 and involves four main components:
- Developing the necessary materials and resources.
- Teacher training on project implementation.
- Practical application in the classroom.
- Continual engagement with the province during Phase One.
This last aspect aims to ensure alignment and integration with provincial plans. Relevant provincial and district officials will be trained and supported to deliver on the Project. Additionally, a data and monitoring system will be developed to manage implementation. There is keen interest from the province to participate and take ownership of the Project with a view to greater integration and rollout throughout the province, i.e., the inclusion of the additional three districts.
The overall goal of this intervention is to implement a province-wide initiative to improve Foundation Phase reading outcomes and to ensure that the project is embedded in the education system.
The outcomes brought about by this Project are as follows:
- Improved teacher capacity, based on new resources and materials, reflected in their classroom practice.
- Adaptation of existing lesson plans for multigrade classrooms.
- Learners’ love of reading brought about by the introduction of approximately 75 Ulwazi Lwethu mother-tongue-graded readers and 65 leisure readers.
- Improved learner understanding and reading skills in two districts.
- A common understanding of the Project at provincial and district levels.
- Readiness for institutionalising the Project across the province should Phase Two be launched following an evaluation.
Competency in early-grade reading is at the core of the Zenex Foundation’s strategy for advancing education in the country. We have been steadily working to find solutions to early-grade literacy and mathematics challenges over the past 10 years. The idea of implementing a province-wide level project represents a good step forward for tackling the problem of poor reading and writing – the cornerstones on which education is built.