By: Sim Cele, GAP Programme Manager
I am sitting by the door, on the tiled floor of the Youth Centre watching the cars come by and pick up kids, making sure no one gets run over. Sitting on the floor is not only cool (it was a hot day) but also it allows me to observe both the inside of the room and the street outside, praying all the while (mumbled words mind you). I turn my bum around and observe the kids in the room and that’s when he comes and sits next to me. He puts his elbow on my crossed legs and snuggles up right close to me. “Aunty Sim please read this book to me.” It’s a reader, which means it’s mostly sentences, not an actual story, but he asks me to read to him. I hear him repeating every sentence I say word for word. It is such a special moment. After a couple of pages, I ask him if he can read some of the smaller words to me. He cannot, so I spell them out and he repeats them. Then I say, “Okay, let’s go over the alphabet.”
We sit down and I write the alphabet up to J, then I tell him to copy it below. We do it verbally over and over. Then I grab a Fizzer and say, “for every letter you get wrong I get a bite of your sweet,” J (sounds mean but it’s an effective learning method and he did get to eat some too). He starts at A and ends at J, but he forgets D. When I start scratching letters out, he gets confused and misses letters. He is the parrot kid.
Parrot learning is something that has been taught around the world for decades. And although it can be effective, it does not really create children who are self-developing. This method of teaching is taught in schools across South Africa and that is why it is easy to miss kids like Anna* who has been pushed through to the 4th grade but cannot even read.
That’s where we step in. The acronym for our name is G.A.P (Genesis Afterschool Program). We literally see ourselves as doing that; as filling in or stepping across the GAP between schools and students, who need a little extra help. Our country’s schools are under resourced, under staffed and over crowded, which means kids get over looked often. It’s not something I am okay with. Around here we use the language being the hands and feet of Jesus and we try to emulate what that might look like. That’s why we go into communities like Merlewood and try to step into the GAP.
If you ever wonder what we’re doing here, why not stop wondering and rather come have a look, or better yet, partner with us to make it possible for us to reach more kids. Maybe together we can help mould true learners and not just parrot children.J
For the kingdom,