Solar Farms Fund Literacy Programme

Droogfontein Solar Power and De Aar Solar Power are funding a literacy programme in 15 local schools, aimed at helping primary school learners to achieve competency at Grade 4 international reading and spelling levels. “Research shows that learners who are literate at Grade 4 level are 80% more likely to complete matric and be prepared for tertiary education and later employment, which ultimately supports our goals of economic upliftment,” explained Marion Green-Thompson, Economic Development Manager for De Aar Solar Power and Droogfontein Solar Power.

Spell It’s goal is “Learn-Ready” a literacy programme, which has impacted 350 000 primary school children since 2010. As with many other educational programmes that the Solar Farms fund, this programme is implemented through partnerships with the National Department of Basic Education and the various provincial departments.

“This programme is ideally focused on 4th Grade basic literacy, in line with international research that has shown this to be a critical transition period, when learners move from the ‘learning to read’ phase into the ‘reading to learn’ phase,”  added Green-Thompson. The aim is for Grade 4 learners to have whole word recognition vocabulary of between 5,000 and 10,000 words; and to be able to read at a speed of 123 words per minute.

The programme consists of three components, namely: The Vocabulary Assistance Programme (VAP); Teacher Training and Capacity Building; and Spelling Bee Competitions. “The VAP is a step-by-step, fun series of card games, age-appropriate stories and interactive activities that assist learners to build on their existing knowledge while brushing up on the fundamentals of phonetics, spelling rules and word structure,” continued Green-Thompson.

The content is CAPS-aligned and gives educators exciting activities to do with their learners in the classroom while covering the required content to get learners spelling at their Grade level.

The support of Spell It’s programme fits into the Solar Farm’s commitment and support of local education as part of their socio economic development initiatives.  This includes an extensive education audit in the region; an ongoing Early Childhood Development bursary programme; funding of Early Childhood Development classroom equipment, training and provision of teaching aids; and an ongoing Foundation Phase Reading Coach Programme.

The funding, to the value of almost R400 000, supports the programme at schools within a 20-50km radius of the Solar Farms. These schools include: include: Emthanjeni Primary School, Alpha Primary School, Willie Theron Primary School, Zingisani Primary School, Kareeville Primary School, Hanover Primary School, St. Johns Primary School, Hayes Primary School, Van Rensburg Primary School, Luvuyo Primary School, Kgabang Primary, Mosalakae Primary, Barkley Wes Primary, Barkley West Primary, Waterworks Primary.

An initial induction session has been held with District Officials, Principals, Educators and Reading Coaches.  Furthermore, local facilitator-coaches will be appointed to serve schools in the programme.  In each area a teacher training and ongoing mentoring component has also been introduced which will involve training for Intermediate and Foundation Phase Educators as well as Reading Coaches.  The final component of the programme will see local and district level Spelling Bees held in each area. Working closely with District and Provincial DBE officials, these Spelling Bees will be linked to the ongoing national Spelling Bee process.