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Strengthening the Education Ecosystem

The past year has been about making sense of the challenges facing Education, and devising programmes to address them. For After School Programmes (ASPs), the focus has not only been on supporting learners, but schools and communities too. Our partners have shown a great sense of purpose and resilience in the face of much uncertainty. In spite of this, the ongoing pandemic continues to reveal new and old cracks in our Education system. The most pressing of these are the widened learning gaps for learners in quintile 1-3 schools. We now ask: How can After School best support learning recovery from the 2020 school closures?

This past quarter, all our Communities of Practice sought to explore this topic with the intent to understand the ways ASPs can participate more meaningfully in the greater Education Ecosystem. This Ecosystem includes school teachers, community based organisations, and parents/caregivers. If ASPs are to play a key role in supporting quality learning outcomes, then building and strengthening relationships with these stakeholders is critical to that objective.

In order to aid this cause, the CoPs shared the following insights, 
  • Communication is a key aspect of partnership and partners.
  • It is vital to understand the dynamics of the community you work in.
  • When approaching schools, consider the hierarchy of key stakeholders.
  • Be aware of other organisations engaged at the school and make contact.
  • Join forces with the school as a united front to reach out to parents.
  • Find ways to understand and meet parent/caregiver needs and challenges. 
An extension of these insights has been documented into a list of ‘Guidelines for Building and Managing Relationships'.
The guidelines are freely accessible on our website along with useful Learning Briefs from previous CoPs.


Leveraging Social Media to connect the sector

An important aspect of building and strengthening the Education Ecosystem is connecting with the network of stakeholders who are part of it and understanding how each of us are contributing to the greater whole. Our first Learning Café of the year focused on how ASPs can leverage social media to communicate their work and mobilise engagement from their respective audiences.

In the session, grantees and alumni shared their experiences with using social media to connect with their different stakeholders, as well as some of their best working practices. Half of the session, facilitated by Phambano Technology Development Centre NPC, covered the basics and benefits of organisations using the three popular social media sites; Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Key to this was highlighting some social media etiquettes that are unique to each site as well the importance of,

  1. understanding and engaging your audience, 
  2. developing content in-line with your organisational strategy, and,
  3. how best to market the value of your work.

If you are interested in accessing the useful insights and tips shared at this Learning Café, visit our website’s Resources page. Beyond using social media to raise awareness for the impact of ASOs within our own communities, it’s equally useful as a way to discover other sectoral players that exist on a regional and national scale. Through this, organisations can really come to understand who is working in the field, who are they reaching, how are they achieving the best programmatic results, and whether any synergies exist for collaboration. 

Since 2019, we adopted #AfterSchoolWorks to begin driving social media campaigns that would increase an awareness of After School opportunities and their impact. We appreciate all of you who have been using this hashtag to promote your work and share inspiring photos of your programmes in action. We encourage those of you who haven’t to start here and participate in the 60 Day Social Media Challenge!


Collaborating with 'love, dignity & respect'

A plethora of new and innovative collaborations came out of the tumultuous year of 2020. Just as the team at Community Chest helped us distribute the After School Treasure Box, they've also contributed to the recently launched, ‘Humanity Hub’. The Hub is a centre that seeks to restore dignity by servicing communities gravely affected by the pandemic and beyond. This is all thanks to a collaboration led by Souper Troopers, and supported by Ladles of LoveMini Meltdown, and Community Chest who house the centre, at 82 Bree Street.

We spoke to Kerry Hoffman, founder of Souper Troopers, to hear more about this collaboration and what it hopes to achieve. Since its inception in 2014, Souper Troopers has worked to improve the lives of people living on the streets by providing monthly social events to connect them. For Kerry, the arrival of COVID-19 into the scene and its subsequent dismaying effects on lives of marginalised communities brought to light a number of other organisations doing similar work, with strengths in different areas. This opened up an opportunity to converge with other like-minded organisations who “hold the same intent and ideology of restoring love, dignity and respect for the destitute,” says Kerry. 

According to Kerry, The Humanity Hub is really a culmination of seven years of learning and understanding what people on the streets actually need, and the collaboration has helped it come to life. Beyond providing the most basic needs (food, clothes and toiletries),the services of centre also include “a full range of services (counselling, skills training, medical and addiction referrals, family mediation, job preparation, creative workshops, micro entrepreneurial opportunities).” Kerry expressed an interest in collaborating with even more partners who can contribute diverse services or even support their current offerings. 

As an NPO with a level 1 B-BBEE status, the Hub looks to attract corporate funding to ensure extended and sustainable support of their project, and also welcomes basic-need donations and material resources from the general public. We invite you to follow and connect with the Hub on Facebook and learn more about ways to support them through their website.


Amplifying community voices through research

Traditional research is often produced for an academic audience. Developmental research has sometimes suffered a similar fate; leaving much of the outcomes and solutions seeing little application. Acknowledging this, Rhodes University hosted an Engaged Research Symposium, a project funded by the National Research Foundation and involving five local universities

This project seeks to explore ways to improve and strengthen relationships with community members by applying engaged research approaches to knowledge creation. As part of this initiative, a Short Learning Programme is currently under development to promote new ways of engagement that thrive on consultation, capacity building and equal participation between academics and community partners. A strong focus is placed on open communication and formulation of research questions that are relevant to community needs and geared towards effective action for change. 
“The recognition and promotion of indigenous forms of knowledge amplifies local voices 
which is a crucial component in driving change for social transformation.” 
- Monica Canca, TLT Programme Officer -  

We see this initiative playing a significant role towards strengthening the collaborations within the Education Ecosystem. For the After School Sector, the practice of Community Based Participatory Research means the potential of a facilitated consultation with diverse community stakeholders to develop collective strategies that support education recovery and contribute to broader education learning outcomes.
Khula Unqobe performs at the Shakespeare Festival 
Theatre and Art are powerful tools for building confidence, improving social skills and advancing linguistic acumen. For learners at Khula Unqobe Creative Arts (KUCA) – an art and drama school based in Soweto – it is also a vehicle to international fame and recognition. This past quarter, KUCA learners participated in the popular Shakespeare School Festival (SSF) for their third year in a row, this time in Moscow, Russia.  

It took them three months in 2020 to prepare for their virtual SSF performance of The Taming of the Shrew, joining international peers from other organisations across the world. “We had to take this wonderful opportunity so that our learners can be reminded that indeed nothing is impossible,” notes Khanyisile Nhlapo, founder of KUCA. At its core, the festival is intended to create a link between Arts and Education whilst uniting kids from diverse backgrounds using the power of theatre and the works of Shakespeare as a vehicle. 

In much the same way, KUCA aims to provide quality Arts Education and develop self-confidence by nurturing and inspiring young people’s talent. This overarching goal attracted us to fund and support KUCA who joined our grantee family last year. “I believe that once a person discovers their gift and they nurture that gift, they easily find and understand their purpose in life. This means that the person will make healthier choices because they have a sense of purpose,” says Khanyisile. 

KUCA is energised in the local  art and theatre space, despite the limitations brought about by the pandemic, as evidenced by their active Facebook page. On the cards in the coming months is competing in the National Championship of Visual Arts and later, at a public speaking competition. Beyond this, KUCA also looks forward to hosting their own concert towards the end of the year.
The transformative power of good parenting

The involvement of parents/guardians in learners’ lives plays a tremendous role in shaping the values they hold and motivations they require to pursue both their known and undiscovered aspirations. The troubling reality is that, most learners from quintile 1-3 who attend After School Programmes come from low-income backgrounds with challenging home environments. So, if we recognise that parents/guardians in the home are a significant role-player in supporting learners and strengthening the triad of our Education Ecosystem, are we ensuring that they are well-equipped for the task? 

In March, our alum, Beautiful Gate, held a graduation ceremony for parents of their Parenting Skills Course, a training facilitated by their ‘Family Strengthening Team’. The annual training – based in Philippi, Cape Town – takes the parents through ‘mindful parenting’ exercises, building healthier relationships with their kids, and learning from each other. 

We spoke with one of the parents who recently graduated, to find out about the ways she has benefitted from the course. Vuyiseka Xhala narrated how being recently divorced and unemployed made it very difficult for her to be present and compassionate for her three sons, thus making their home environment entirely unpleasant. She initially went to Beautiful Gate to acquire counselling services and, within a few weeks, was invited to join the Parenting Skills Training. The training exceeded Vuyiseka’s expectations; inspiring her to reimagine single-parenthood and feel empowered in the role she plays in her kids’ development. What excites her the most is the renewed bond she has managed to ignite with her eldest son who now views her as his trusted confidant and friend after years of emotional detachment.  

In their own newsletter, Beautiful Gate shared how many other parents found that “the course had opened their minds to what's possible for themselves [and] were now inspired to dream and continue their journey of self-development.” We are immensely proud of Vuyiseka’s journey along with the other parents who took the initiative to be inspiring agents of change for themselves and their families. A big congratulations to the Family Strengthening Team at Beautiful Gate who continue to facilitate this transformative training every year!


For Your Interest



Fundraising & Sustainability Seminar

Good Governance Seminar

ASAP Community of Practice

Learning Cafe 2

Director's Circle 1

Data Collection 2

Stay safe and stay connected,

The Learning Trust Team