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Zenex Literacy Project (ZenLit)



Implemented in 21 schools across three provinces, this project is focused on developing and testing an innovative model of in-service training for Foundation Phase literacy teachers.

Name of organisation/service provider: MOLTENO, READ and ELET with literary specialists

Duration of project: July 2014 – December 2017

Programme: Mathematics, Science and Language in Schools: Foundation Phase Literacy


Where is the project based: Province, Area: KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern and Western Cape


Link to Evaluation of the Zenex Literacy Project

Link to Zenex Foundation Literacy Project

Link to The characteristics of an expert reading teacher

1.   Introduction

The Zenex Foundation led a proactive approach to design a literacy intervention, which commenced with dialogues with literacy experts, service providers and government representatives. This process culminated in a detailed Project concept and implementation plan for Foundation Phase literacy teacher training and support.

The Zenex Foundation Literacy Project is an innovative teacher development intervention to assist teachers in the Foundation Phase with Home Language (HL) and First Additional Language (FAL) literacy teaching, aligned with the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS). The overall impact of the Project is to improve learner performance in literacy (HL and FAL) at the Foundation Phase. The Project contributes strategically to the Foundation’s larger objective of improving learner performance in literacy which has a bearing on their performance in Mathematics and Science.

1.1 District and School selection

Three Districts were chosen to participate in the Project, namely Port Elizabeth (Eastern Cape), Ndwedwe (KwaZulu-Natal) and Metropole South (Western Cape). Each District nominated a champion for the Project. The school selection process was based on:

  • The level of school functionality.
  • A review of the EMIS data for each District to assess performance levels at the schools.
  • On-site feasibility visits.  

The findings of these processes were shared with the Districts and this resulted in the final selection of eight schools per District that were functional and willing, and that also had at least two classes in each Grade in the Foundation Phase.

2. Specific problems to be addressed

The consolidated findings of all the school visits were that:

  • Teachers require practical classroom support to deliver CAPS (lesson planning, pacing, dealing with classes with a range a learner abilities, and backlogs).
  • Teachers in KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape require assistance to teach English as a second language and teachers in the Western Cape require assistance in teaching English as first language to learners whose first language is not English.
  • Teachers require assistance with the practical use of resources they already have in the schools. Some schools need a top-up of literacy resources.

Literacy experts, literature on existing literacy interventions as well as research and evaluation findings indicate that five factors work together to affect learning outcomes in literacy: teachers, school management, resources, socio-economic status/home and systemic factors. The Literacy Project will support three of the five factors, namely: teacher support, Head of Department support and resource provision.

3. Details of the intervention

The literacy intervention will support isiXhosa and English in Eastern Cape, isiZulu and English in KwaZulu-Natal, and isiXhosa and English in the Western Cape. The rationale for supporting both languages in Foundation Phase is that strengthened skills and competencies in the Home Language assist the acquisition and competence of additional languages.

3.1 Intervention with Foundation Phase teachers

A crucial component of this Project is to ensure a coherent and homogenous approach to literacy teaching that is aligned with CAPS. The Project will assist teachers to implement CAPS in HL and FAL and will focus on classroom management, learner assessment and how children learn a second language. The intervention will mainly focus on reading, comprehension and writing. Twenty four days of training and four in-class specialist coaching sessions will be provided per year.

3.2 Intervention with Foundation Phase HODs

The role of the HODs who lead, guide and manage teachers is critical. The Project will assist HoDs to support teachers on content and effective delivery of the literacy curriculum. A 14-day accredited training course and four on-site specialist coaching sessions will be provided per year.

3.3 Literacy Resources

All Foundation Phase classrooms will be provided with the minimum basic teaching resources based of the audit of needs completed during the Project set-up phase. In addition, a basic reading system with reading books, vocabulary charts and flash cards will be provided for each class. These reading books will be drawn from the provincial approved list and will take into account the resources that are already in schools.

3.4 Capacity Building

Building capacity in the sector is a principle that is embedded in the Project. Capacity building will take place at three levels – Service Provider, Research and Evaluation and Materials Development.

4. Specific results to be achieved

This intervention will provide an innovative model of in-service training for professional teacher development for literacy in the Foundation Phase, as well as benchmarks (vocabulary and reading speed) for teaching literacy in the Foundation Phase for isiXhosa, isiZulu and English as a First Additional Language.

The Project incorporates the following innovative components which will provide valuable input into the teaching and learning of literacy:

  • Combining a theoretical understanding of language acquisition with the practical implementation of CAPS in a highly structured training programme.
  • Understanding requirements for implementing the language policy in varying language contexts.
  • Supporting teachers to implement the 2012 policy on English FAL Curriculum from Grade 1.
  • Contributing to the development of benchmarks for vocabulary (number of words) and reading speed (set per grade) for English FAL, isiXhosa and isiZulu.



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