Most of us can remember our first day at school: the mixture of excitement and somewhat nervous anticipation! For the 7 young children taking up their Vulindlela Scholarships, the challenges have been far more complex and demanding. They have had to leave the security of their families and friends, their homes, Nqileni village – their entire world. They have had to adjust to living with strangers, going to a big, urban school, speaking and being spoken to only in English, and so much more. It is difficult to imagine how they must have felt on that first day in Grade 1.
Preparing them for these challenges has required a sensitive, well-planned and on-going partnership between the children’s families, the host family in Mthatha, the Umtata International School and the Bulungula Incubator (BI). The well-being of each child is of paramount importance and we have monitored this by regular visits to Mthatha, discussions with the families in the village and talking informally to the children when they return home every 2nd weekend. It would have been unrealistic to think that problems would not have arisen but they have not been insurmountable and have been satisfactorily addressed. We are satisfied that the children are being well cared for and that they are adjusting happily to their new way of life. Indeed, they have taken the extraordinary challenges in their stride, showing amazing resilience.
While we were confident in the children’s academic abilities, it was nevertheless difficult to predict how all these challenges would affect their progress in the classroom, particularly their inability to speak and understand English and we are therefore very proud of their achievements as reported by the Grade 1 teacher in their 1st term reports. While most of them are making good progress, 2 are already achieving at an excellent level. It is gratifying to note that all the children show remarkable strength in Mathematics and the Creative Arts.
In order to assist them with their English which, in turn, will boost their confidence, we shall be setting up a tutoring programme at the Jujurha Education Centre (JEC) during the school holidays. Very few members of the Nqileni community can speak English so this programme will have to be carefully planned and executed if it is to make a real difference.
During the April holidays, the children came home with a folder full of ‘homework’ worksheets which they enthusiastically completed with some assistance and supervision at the JEC. It was also an opportunity to gauge their progress and reinforce some of their learning. More importantly, however, it was an ideal way to assess their wellbeing in an informal and secure setting.
They are very obviously excited and enthusiastic about their new school and they seem to have integrated well on a social level. The 4 boys are boisterous and typically less concerned than the girls with neatness when completing worksheets! The 3 girls form a supportive unit and take great pride in doing their best at all times. The quieter, less extrovert personalities appear to be coping well and all of them give the impression of being proud of their role as Vulindlela Scholarship recipients.
It would be unrealistic to expect that there won’t be further challenges to be overcome in the future but, at this stage, we are delighted at the promising start of this life-changing education programme and on behalf of Asali, Linewu, Linathi, Thulile, Yonwaba, Zethu and Zolile, the BI thanks each and every sponsor of the Vulindlela Scholarship Programme.
Check the summaries of the individual children’s reports by following the links.