This is the first of a mini-series about the exciting reading activities going on at the Seventh Day Adventist School in Grahamstown.
By Roxanne Daniels
You cannot simply know things. You have to do something about your knowledge and that is why reading is so important. That is what headmistress of the Seventh Day Adventist Primary School in Joza believes. Sondezwa Cynthia Hobongwana remembers when the school children enjoyed reading activities so much that it began to be a teaching tool used beyond the language subjects. With reading, the pupils did acted news reports, drama skits and presented written assignments to the class in creative ways. They learned how to retell a story after analysing and discussing the topic at hand. The reading programme at the school slowed down to a halt and Mrs Hobongwana was very sad that there was no one to run a reading programme.
In came teacher Edward Kuchaka and things began to change. Mr Kuchaka is originally from Zimbabwe and says that reading in his home country is very important. “Before grade one, parents are encouraged to buy their children a set of 27 books which they read by the end of their schooling career”, Kuchaka explained. His own son who is only in grade three has already read 25 books. So when this teacher came to the Seventh Day Adventist School in 2011 and noticed that learners were struggling with reading and comprehension, he launched the reading programme.
It was started last year and the pupils have since seen great benefits. Mr Kuchaka started with the grade 4 class and moved up to grades 5 and 6 and now wants to move the programme down to include grade 3. The school performed very well in the Annual National Assessment exams and last year were taken to provincial level with learners doing speech, reading and poetry. To start, Mr Kuchaka encouraged learners to save pocket money to buy their own books which, to his delight, they did. But they have now already read their own books and are eager for more. Mr Kuchaka says with a smile on his face that “as term comes to an end the children are now bugging me to lend them books so that they can still read over the one week holiday”.
Mr Kuchaka is very excited about the programme and what it has done for the children. He knows that their horizons have been widened and they are learning to express themselves so well. He even went as far as to say that they are doing so above and beyond their age. This inspiring teacher will not be at the school forever and wanted to make sure that he left a legacy for the children. He wants them to say, “you remember that teacher? He moved the extra mile for us and now we can read and research very well”.
In addition to this, Mr Kuchaka wants to encourage other schools and children in Grahamstown to do the same, saying that you do not need fancy equipment or expensive resources to improve the children’s prospects.