February 2020.

Bantu Maqabuka, a reading coach at Kim Kgolo Primary School, in Kimberley, believes that he has found his purpose in life that is bigger and more pressing than his own needs. In fact, he was studying towards a National Diploma in Public Management when he was invited by the Department of Education to try out for the role of a reading coach. He found the experience both daunting and exciting and chose to follow his heart.

Five years later he is working full time as a reading coach and, despite having completed and qualified in Public Management, he is now studying towards becoming a teacher.

“Being a reading coach has helped me to grow so much. I was initially scared to work with children and didn’t think that I could make a difference, but now I actually feel like I have a purpose that is bigger than me, I can help so many people. I help my sister’s children and sometimes I even help people I come across in the street,” says Bantu Maqabuka.

As a reading coach, he is tasked with supporting teachers, as they struggle to help each child on an individual level. “It takes time to give a child the help they need, even for me, as a reading coach. I often stay in at break time and after school on many days to give the children extra help,” he adds.

He believes that it isn’t just the role of teachers, parents need to be able to assist learners at home with homework. Unfortunately, many parents work long hours and so their children don’t get the help they need. Plus, many parents haven’t had access to a proper education, so they aren’t able to assist.

There are other stories of inspirational young people that are choosing to make a difference in their communities. Just like Bantu, reading coaches are stepping in to help teachers. They work with small groups of learners, or individually when needed. The results are beginning to show, but it is a long road ahead.

“The Reading Assistant Programme means that children are assisted individually or in small groups, according to their ability, paying particular attention to those who struggle,” explained Zuki Ndlela, Economic Development Officer at Droogfontein Solar Power.

This literacy programme is funded by Droogfontein Solar Power and supports the Department of Basic Education’s primary school literacy drive that focuses on reading improvement initiatives, quality teaching in home language literacy, English as a first additional language, reading clubs and even reading competitions. This is the message from Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga who announced eleven priorities that her department will focus on for the 2019 medium-term strategic framework.

The Reading Coach Programme means that children are assisted individually or in small groups, according to their ability, paying particular attention to those who struggle.

Having found his passion, Bantu wants to keep on making a difference to the children he works with; and especially those in his community.