12 ACHIEVEMENTS: ACROSS 12 YEARS
1 RURAL DEMONSTRATION SCHOOL NETWORKS:
Working intensively with a collective of rural schools, the NMI has supported the emergence of the first cohort of rural schools who are systematically improving learning performance in both home language literacy and mathematics over time. Whereby before there was little teaching and learning, teaching days are now productive, with teachers resistant to leaving their classrooms. Teachers and children are immersed in reading, writing and working with numbers. Children actively participate in learning; teachers say that they enjoy their classrooms, for the first time.
2 RURAL EMBEDDED LEARNING ARCHITECTURE.
The Magic Classroom Collective is a long term learning architecture embedded within rural primary school classrooms. The MCC brings together rural foundation phase teachers, teacher educators and researchers across time to build tools, knowledge and practices accountable to African language dominant classrooms. It provides value to the national system as a vehicle to hold policy, curriculum and other educational developments accountable to rural children and their classrooms.
3 EARLY GRADE HOME LANGUAGE LITERACY:
Based on both the work of the Magic Classroom Collective and systematic studies into early grade reading development in isiXhosa, the NMI has developed an early grade home language literacy programme (Grade R through 3) combining language skills and phonics with immersion into reading and writing for real reasons. For the first time, children in the MCC are beginning to read independently by Grade 1. The new tools and methods promise to contribute to the transformation of early grade literacy at wide scale.
4 EARLY GRADE MATHEMATICS:
Based on the ten year experience of the Magic Classroom Collective, the NMI have developed a deep understanding of the challenges of early grade mathematics, and the way that instructional materials and teacher support can be combined to improve learner performance in early grade mathematics over time. The organisation has developed a complete curricular toolkit for the achievement of early grade mathematics in Grade R, 1, 2 and 3. On average, learner performance in early grade mathematics has improved by over 30%.
5 BILINGUAL BACHELOR OF EDUCATION – BUILDING A PIPELINE OF NEW TEACHERS:
Informed largely by the work of the Magic Classroom Collective, the University of Fort Hare has launched the first bilingual (isiXhosa English) Bachelor of Education degree for primary school teachers. Working with the Faculty of Education, the NMI helps to coordinate the new four-year degree programme to build a new cohort of primary school teachers capable of teaching in African language early grade classrooms. The first first-year cohort of students entered the programme in 2018. The first cohort will graduate in 2021.
6 CLASSROOM BASED COACHING AND SUPPORT:
Over the past 10 years, the NMI team has been immersed in rural classrooms, working hand in hand with teachers to improve day-to-day teaching and learning. The NMI team has spent an equivalent of 16 complete school years supporting teachers in their classrooms in the past ten years alone. This long term immersion within the day to day life of rural classrooms makes the organisation uniquely positioned to build solutions that work.
7 COMMUNITY LITERACY:
The NMI has developed a number of programmes and networks to enhance joyful reading in families and rural communities. This includes the development of the Mbizana Literacy Week, bringing community leaders, parents, grandparents, unemployed youth, early childhood development practitioners, teachers and children into a range of activities focused on building a joyful culture of reading to and with children. Over the past three years, the organisation has distributed over 8,000 books a year to rural schools and communities through a range of community literacy activities.
8 CHILDREN READING AND WRITING NETWORKS:
Phemba Mfundi roughly translates into “learners starting the fire.” Phemba Mfundi was launched in 2007 as an innovative space to build a youth culture for reading and writing within schools and communities. The programme has included roughly 500 learners (Grade 4-7) each year. The programme takes the form of school based reading and writing clubs, culminating in the periodic publication of a journal of short stories, poetry, biographies and autobiographies.
9 DIALOGUE AND POLICY ENGAGEMENT:
The work of the NMI is designed to provide insight and policy advice to higher levels of the South African education system. Through both written work and the participation in a number of national policy networks and discussions, the NMI has contributed to the re-prioritising of early grade learning with a focus on African languages across the system. The NMI participates in a number of national policy processes, including the Department of Basic Education’s National Reading Panel.
10 TEAM, PARTNERS AND VOLUNTEER NETWORK:
Over the past ten years the organisation has built a hard working team, an extended group of partners and a dedicated volunteer network focused on African language based bilingual literacy development in schools and communities. READ MORE This includes a network of students writing children’s books, a network of volunteers coordinating community reading clubs, and a network of researchers and academics building the field of African language based literacy and learning.
11 NEW FIELD:
Working with a number of partners across the country, the work of the NMI has contributed to the recognition and establishment of the field of bilingual African language based bilingual literacy and learning. READ MORE: For a range of historical reasons, research and development to build the field of African language bilingual literacy and learning has been largely marginalised. The consequences are painful. The lack of research and instructional expertise means that the majority of teachers teaching through an African language are left to extrapolate from English rooted instructional praxis.
12 INNOVATIVE AND ACCOUNTABLE SPIRIT:
Last but not least, we are proud of our organisational ethos or spirit. The organisation is rooted in the traditions of teacher professional development, applied research and activist oriented social change. The organisation is both able to innovate and think out of the box, but committed to undertaking the hard work to understand how to make these ideas work in the burdened context of rural schools. Rejecting simple solutions, we remain convinced that public education can serve all of our children through a careful combination of teacher development, instructional resources and method, and care.