PHOTO ESSAY: Early literacy in the Free State

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Khayalethu is an ECD centre for 120 children aged 0-5 in Vrede – a small town in the heart of the agricultural Free State.

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Two years ago, Khayalethu was invited to participate in the Nal’ibali StoryPlay project. Nal’ibali is a national literacy programme and StoryPlay is a sub-programme used in early learning centres and schools to get children excited about reading.

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Nal’ibali StoryPlay uses dance, drama and singing to get children involved in the storytelling process. “We encourage children’s imagination by getting them to act out the stories they have heard in class or ones they have made up themselves,” says Malifu Moloi (dressed in orange in the picture below). Malifu introduced the StoryPlay programme in Khayalethu.

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Malifu is not a teacher or Early Childhood Development practitioner. She is a participant in government’s Community Work Programme, which creates job opportunities for people living in poverty.

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Participants in the Community Work Programme wear distinctive orange overalls.  They are paid by government to do useful work in communities. Sometimes, they receive training to do the work from a private partner. In this case, the partner was Nal’ibali.

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The Nal’ibali StoryPlay programme is filling an important need in Vrede because it addresses literacy problems at their source – during early childhood.  The complex brain networks responsible for language and reading begin forming before birth. The more spoken language young children hear, the better these networks will develop. Storytelling exposes children to spoken language and encourages the understanding of words.

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Malifu says that the children who have taken part in the programme in the past, and moved onto formal schooling are already doing better than their peers.  She hopes that Nal’ibali can extend to more centres and benefit more children, in the future. So far, 100 centres, or 5073 children, are benefiting from Nal’ibali StoryPlay through the Community Work Programme in the Free State.

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If you enjoyed this photo essay, you may like to read our longer length article about the Nal’ibali – Community Work Programme partnership in the Free State. 

 

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