RESULT: ECD Staff gain awareness, knowledge & skills and start to apply these
In 2013, when First Children started getting involved in Montessori education in the Coffee Bay area, there was only 1 trained teacher, at 1 school, serving around 40 children. It was clear that there was a need to offer skills development to build local capacity for ECD education to grow and flourish. When canvassing in the area for people to join the proposed training course, two women from local schools stepped forward. At the time, these schools had meager resources and only the most basic of facilities.
“When the school was first built by good hearted foreign people, nobody spoke to the local community about which way the storms come from. It was built with all the windows and doors facing the bad weather and so we had terrible problems with the roof, the wind broke doors and glass and rain was coming in and spoiling everything. We had very little things for the children to learn with, so very few children came, maybe only less than 10. After a short time, the building did not look new anymore and it was not safe for the children.”
Owing to the level of poverty in the area, the families of the children attending these schools generally did not pay school fees, nor did they understand and appreciate the importance of education in this critical time of their children’s development so school attendance was low.
First children commenced the training and mentoring of 7 students in 2013 and took on the second cohort of 14 students in 2018. All individuals have been drawn from the local communities. FC provides training, mentoring and additional classroom resources and Montessori educational materials, where possible. In 2019 the Wild Coast Montessori Network was established so that the qualified teachers from the first cohort can continue in their professional development. This is also a successful platform for them to be able to mentor the new students and become role models in their own communities.
“The community is so happy about the school now. Even in this short time there is now a waiting list. The parents are proud and take an interest in the classroom. They see the Montessori school is clean. They didn’t understand the activities at first, they thought we were just playing, but I have explained that every activity is preparing the child for the school life, to write, to read and to use their brain. With the help of the parent meetings, each time they come I show them around so that they are familiar. So they understand now. They are aware of the materials and if they find something in the pockets, they know it must be back to school, they return it and no longer throw it in the grass.”
Regular workshops are held and eagerly attended by the teachers within the network to revisit some of the Montessori principles, improve their school management skills, train them in parent engagement and workshops and making of new learning materials offered to the children. The schools within the network are also visited monthly by a mentor who observes their practice, encourages them and provides them with specific areas of growth consideration. The mentor also helps to assess the children’s school readiness which is collated and compared to the other schools in the network, as seen below.
“I feel so proud to have this beautiful school, classroom and new material. I feel confident that I can do a better job. It makes us to be more interested and more committed to our work and the children.”