Wilhemina Mathabatha, is one of two reading assistants at Waterworks Primary School in Riverton, Kimberley. She returned to this small school in 2014, where she was previously a pupil, to help young learners with their reading and spelling, a job that she says has motivated her to study towards a teaching diploma. This school has also recently received accolades for its learners’ spelling progress, in accordance with an international assessment.
Children are assisted individually or in small groups, according to their ability, paying particular attention to those who struggle. Wilhemina works with learners across three grades, and is also responsible for implementing the Spell It’s “Learn Ready Literacy” programme aimed at helping learners to transition from the ‘learning to read’ phase into the ‘reading to learn’ phase.
“Being a reading coach has motivated me to work with learners with different learning disabilities. This reading programme has boosted my confidence and is helping me to give back to my community, so much so, that I’ve become inspired to study towards a teaching qualification,” said Wilhemina.
She says that the experience that she is gaining whilst she helps learners with their reading and spelling actually benefits her own academics. “It helps me focus and encourages me to be the best teacher that I can be, whilst I get practical experience for when I qualify as a teacher. What’s great is that I am growing my learners, while I myself am growing to become a teacher,” she says with a smile.
Waterworks Primary School learners were assessed towards the end of last year, through the Schonell Test, a proven international standard assessment that indicates the appropriate spelling and reading age of a learner, on an individual basis. The results showed an improvement of 57% in the space of a year, demonstrating that over 75% of the learners are able to read at the appropriate age level, a phenomenal result. The programme is expected to continue to yield impressive results.
It is not only the school that has been recognised for its learners’ achievements, but Wilhelmina too. She received an award from the Department of Education for the best reading coach in the Northern Cape. She compares this achievement to receiving a teaching bursary from Droogfontein Solar Power and the Department of Education, a long term goal that she has harboured since finishing school.
“The Droogfontein Solar Power Reading Assistant Programme means that I have the opportunity to help the children of my community, while getting a salary for it. I believe that I am doing so well with my academics because I get to put into practice what I am studying,” she concluded.