Shine Literacy

Project Representative
Ms Maurita Weissenberg
Creation Date: 2000
Geographical Reach: South Africa
Nature and number of beneficiaries: 2600 children, 1600 parents/caregivers
Expertise: Education
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Shine Literacy

About the Project

South Africa is in a socio-economic crisis. The national education system is in disarray, the population is poorly educated, there is a national skills' shortage and often violent socio-political unrest is the norm. In a small but significant way, The Shine Centre is making a real contribution to securing the country’s future. The most important investment we can make is an investment in a sound education for the children of South Africa. Shine bestows the gift of literacy upon young readers from disadvantaged backgrounds, thereby establishing a strong basis for their continuing education, and sets them firmly on the path to lifelong learning. Its unique and innovative approach to literacy program development and delivery is increasingly attracting national and international recognition for the impact it is having in the early childhood development arena. Shine is dedicated to, and singularly focused on, the development and delivery of literacy support programs and interventions for school-going children in Grades 2 and 3 using trained volunteers and evidence-based methodologies and resources. Impact is measured by the increasing number of children who graduate from the program, the project's ever-expanding organizational reach and footprint, and the cost-effectiveness of its model, as indicated by the Rand-value stretch.

Context and Issue

29% of Grade Four children in South Africa are illiterate, and international studies show that those results are worse than those even of other low-income African countries. Grade repetition is high during the Foundation Stage, with associated costs for children’s self-esteem and motivation to learn, and for the education system as a whole. Class sizes are large (often in excess of 40 children) and many teachers are overwhelmed, without adequate support and resources. Many children face multiple deprivations from birth, which directly impact on their ability to learn. These include poor nutrition, disease, violence and abuse, impoverished living conditions and a lack of loving relationships.

Children who struggle at a young age find it hard to learn across all subject areas and are therefore at risk of falling behind in their education, causing them to struggle to graduate from school, choose to drop out, or have difficulty finding meaningful employment. All these factors limit them from becoming economically active, contributing and purposeful citizens.

Parents and caregivers tend to undervalue their role in their child’s education and remain South Africa’s most under-utilised educational resource. Crucially, parents lack opportunities to gain the confidence, knowledge and skills to enable them to support learning in the home and help their child reach their fullest potential.

Solution and Impact

Shine provides individualised support to children in Grades Two and Three to strengthen their reading, writing and speaking skills. A structured program, implemented by trained volunteers, ensures that children struggling to read are provided with individual assistance, attention and encouragement, which are necessary for learning and success. Training is simple and accessible, and anyone who loves children, books and reading can volunteer. Each volunteer is placed with one or two children twice a week for an hour to help them develop their love of books and reading. Individual attention is a critical component in schools where class sizes are large and teachers typically overwhelmed.

In terms of the overall impact of the project, it was found through an internal study that as few as 36 hours of Shine intervention can take a child from being at 'at risk' in terms of their literacy, to a 'satisfactory' or 'good' reading level. The project is simple, cost-effective and far-reaching. Skills learnt by those who attend training sessions and workshops impact broader communities.

Future Developments

The aim of the project for the next few years is to expand its reach and plan a diverse training program which will enable a wide range of organisations/individuals to start literacy programs of their own, supported by Shine. It is planned to facilitate the establishment of more Shine ‘Chapters’ (social franchises) - of which there are currently 16 in three different provinces in South Africa.

2017 will see the facilitation of 40 Family Literacy Workshops reaching approximately 2400 families. Shine’s Family Literacy Workshops seek to equip parents and caregivers with the knowledge and skills to help them better support learning in the home. Tips, practical ideas and new resources enable parents to develop a repertoire of strategies and tools for helping their children to become successful readers and writers.

Shine is also involved in several programmes which use unemployed youth as learning partners – thereby tackling high levels of unemployment and low levels of literacy at the same time.

In 2017, Shine programmes will run in 71 primary schools in four South African provinces.

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