Spotlight on our Zero Dropout Champions: Masibumbane

Learners wear face masks in class as part of measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the school environment after a protracted nationwide suspension of schooling.

We have partnered with four non-profit organisations (NPOs) to implement dropout prevention strategies at various schools across the country. Our partnerships are focused on identifying and demonstrating what it takes to help learners finish school.

The Masibumbane Development Organisation (MDO) has adopted the American dropout prevention model of “Check & Connect” (C&C) and adapted aspects to suit the local context of schools in poor communities in East London. MDO works with learners in Grade 6 to Grade 9, and identifies at-risk learners through the C&C criteria at the beginning of the year for inclusion in a mentoring programme.

Learners are paired with mentors who get to know the exact reasons why they are struggling, which helps teachers to understand the child’s situation better. MDO mentors conduct one-to-one sessions with learners in the mentoring programme. In these sessions, the mentors discuss progress with schoolwork, issues that a learner is facing at school or at home, and they do skill-building exercises such as goal-setting and time-management to assist the learner to develop a plan for the year and to stick to agreed milestones.

We spoke with Nomfundiso Rafuza from Masibumbane about their work during lockdown.

NOMFUNDISO RAFUZA in the spotlight

Education Programme Officer at Masibumbane Development Organisation

Nomfundiso Rafuza

How has your programme adapted to the lockdown?

Due to the fact that our activities involve face to face interactions with learners and their parents, we had to rethink how we connect with the beneficiaries of our programme.

Since start of the lockdown, we have been providing psychosocial support to our learners as well as support in accessing distance learning resources. Phone calls, text messages and WhatsApp groups (with teachers) have been the main avenues of communication, however, access to data and connectivity issues remain a challenge for a number of families.

Aside from holding virtual mentoring sessions with learners, our mentors also worked closely with ward counsellors to facilitate the distribution of food parcels to families in need.

How do these services help to reduce school dropout?

During one-to-one sessions, our mentors can better understand why a child is pulling away from school. After a while, these learners become more confident and with the right support they begin to adopt productive coping mechanisms to deal with the stresses in their lives. We often find that when a child is supported to deal with disruptions in the home or community environment, they are able to concentrate on their schoolwork and show improvements in their academic performance.

What type of feedback have you received from parents, learners and teachers?

Learners and their parents have expressed appreciation and support for the programme. We have noticed that many teachers are nervous about returning to class because of the threat of Covid-19. Often, their anxiety is linked to the fact that they don’t have access to reliable information about how to continue teaching in the midst of a global pandemic. There is also a lot of pressure on them to catch up with the curriculum even though a significant number of school days have been lost.

What advice can you offers parents and caregivers about learning at home?

We know that parenting during this period has been complicated by the new challenges brought about by the   school closures and the Covid-19 pandemic. Parents are encouraged to support their children by initiating conversations that will enable them to express their feelings. It’s also important to find out how much they know about the coronavirus so as to protect and educate them. Establishing a routine with a timetable of schoolwork and activities is also a useful way to help them stay connected with school life.