MAVERICK CITIZEN EDUCATION

Refugee children get a learning lifeline from Three2Six

By Erica Penfold and Charlotte Magerit 23 April 2020

Smiling Three2Six learners at Sacred Heart College, Observatory, take part in their creative lessons for the afternoon. (Photo: Benjamin Bugeja)

Poor families struggling financially in lockdown are further disadvantaged by their children being deprived of education due to a lack of access to technology and internet at home. The Three2Six project in Johannesburg has made a plan for its children.

For the past 12 years, the Three2Six project, a non-profit organisation based at three campuses (Sacred Heart College in Observatory, Holy Family College and Observatory Girls’ Primary School) has been providing a bridging education programme for refugee and asylum-seeker children, as they are not always able to secure space in state schools.

At Three2Six, lessons are held from 3pm to 6pm daily and the children get a meal as well as a uniform, textbooks, stationery and safe transport to and from classes every day.

The programme provides love and comfort to children and families who have to navigate the winding paths of bureaucracy around refugee and asylum-seeker status in South Africa. Every child receives education, knowledge and adequate preparation to enter into a regular school environment.

The week before the project’s campuses closed, a nurse came to explain to the children what Covid-19 is and how we can stop the spread of the disease. The children took this information home with them but, because of the lockdown, were cut off from their regular schooling hours. If other schools managed to move to distance learning, Three2Six could not, as its learners have limited or no access to technology at home.

The team at Three2Six had to come up with a back-up plan as they could no longer provide afternoon programmes during lockdown. Families received food vouchers, but this didn’t make up for a lack of knowledge development for the kids.

The answer came in the form of radio education. Three2Six partnered with the Catholic radio station Radio Veritas to record lessons for the children to listen to. Radio is still the easiest and cheapest way to get information across to those who are not fortunate enough to have Wi-Fi, smartphones, laptops or tablets.

In addition to this, the Three2Six teachers have been innovative in also using WhatsApp to reach learners. Lessons and games are keeping learners active and intellectually engaged until normal classes can resume after the lift of the lockdown and the Three2Six project is delighted to be able to continue providing a service.

There is a message in this for all of us. We have to be resourceful and resilient and keep pushing to provide for people who need us. That is the lesson the Three2Six project has shared for the last 12 years and it is more evident now, during the Covid-19 chaos, than ever.

The Three2Six project was founded at Sacred Heart College and later extended to Observatory Girls’ Primary, in 2010, and Holy Family College, in 2018. It has grown from 62 learners to 335 in 2018, has empowered close to 100 teachers and offered a safe space to more than 2,400 children. Over 600,000 meals have been served. More than 600 children have been able to register at state schools with the help of the project.

In the coming days, the project will provide another round of food vouchers to a value of R500 for each child to support their families.

At the end of lockdown, Three2Six will put in place a catch-up programme of additional classes for all children and teaching camps for older children. DM/MC

Follow us on Facebook. Read our Newsletter. Any contribution of any kind would go a long way. Please contact [email protected]. Charlotte Margerit, project manager at Three2Six and Erica Penfold is communications manager.

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