Schools are more than simply spaces for learning; it’s where many children access meals, psychosocial support services, and enrichment programmes. These services were cut off for numerous vulnerable learners when classes were suspended at the start of the lockdown. To mitigate the impact of the school closures, the Community Action Programme (CAP) — one of our four implementing partners — began providing food and support packages to learners. CAP is based in Swellendam and works with schools and communities to support learners who are at risk of dropping out. The longer a child is away from school and loses their connection to learning, the more likely they are to drop out. This situation is exacerbated by the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, which is causing disruptions in the homes and personal lives of vulnerable learners.
We spoke with Herman Smit from CAP about how the organisation pivoted its programme to address the needs of their beneficiaries during the lockdown.
Executive Chairperson, CAP
We wanted to make sure that our learners had food at home and could continue learning even though classes were suspended. We began distributing printed material to learners at their homes and made sure they had data to access e-learning resources. When schools reopened, we began monitoring attendance levels and followed up with learners who had not returned to find out how we could assist them. The lockdown has taught us how to better utilise cost-effective technology to connect with our beneficiaries, particularly principals and school management teams.
The longer a learner is away from school, the higher the risk of disengagement and dropout. We track absenteeism so that we can better understand the individual factors driving learners away from the school space. Our programme aims to motivate learners to stay in school by helping them to address the issues standing in the way of their educational success.
Our interventions are aimed at different role players within the education ecosystem. We support principals and educators, school-based support teams, and school leadership structures to reduce dropout and promote good educational outcomes. During the lockdown, we held virtual meetings with various role players on a regular basis. We also carried out home visits to monitor the well being of the learners in our programme.
It’s important to create an environment conducive to learning by establishing daily routines. Providing adult support goes beyond simply helping a child with schoolwork, which is why we encourage caregivers to spend time with their child doing activities at home.