Trevor Noah Foundation gets serious about giving young South Africans a brighter future
The Trevor Noah Foundation, in partnership with township schools in Gauteng, is helping develop the talents of young people in South Africa in projects aimed at fostering excellence.
Learners at Moses Kotane Primary School, in Braamfischerville, Gauteng are being taught about coding and robotics, through a partnership with the Trevor Noah Foundation (TNF).
Gabriel Moeng, the coding and robotics coordinator at the school, told Daily Maverick that the Grade 7 learners were enjoying the programme.
“It is so exciting for them. You can see that these learners want these gadgets. They concentrate and participate,” Moeng said.
The TNF was started in 2018 with a mission to enhance equitable access to education for young people aged 5-35 in historically disadvantaged communities and to create environments that foster excellence.
Its programmes include the Khulani Schools Programme, which aims to empower youth by providing inclusive education, career guidance, leadership development, psychosocial support, second-chance opportunities and courses on artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and coding.
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The project, in partnership with Sifiso EdTech, has been piloted at schools in Braamfischerville and Eldorado Park.
Moeng said they underwent a two-week coding and robotics course in September.
“That’s when we started knowing about coding and robotics. When we saw these [robotics], we saw toys. We didn’t know that we could make something out of it.”
Now, using robotics, learners can construct products such as loading machines and trucks that can be programmed using a cellphone and instructed to perform certain tasks.
Another project for literacy under the Khulani banner was conducted in partnership with Nal’ibali — the national reading-for-enjoyment campaign, which is driven by the TNF.
Bongani Godide, Nal’ibali’s project lead, said their focus is on literacy development in the Braamfischerville community.
Godide said they promote reading and storytelling in mother-tongue languages, which is informed by research that children who are exposed to literacy at an early age through mother-tongue languages tend to do better academically than those who have not been exposed to this.
“Nal’ibali says that it is never too early, so we need to start telling stories and reading to children at an early age,” Godide said.
He said they focused on the Foundation Phase from grades R to 3.
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They have trained about 120 teachers in seven schools on reading aloud, storytelling and how to use the Nal’ibali supplement.
“The whole idea is that we would like to see teachers do storytelling and reading aloud in the classroom,” Godide said.
“The benefits are critical for children, especially in storytelling, because that is where children develop vocabulary, ability to imagine and emotions to strengthen their behaviour and how to relate to other children.”
He said they were also teaching parents to read aloud to their children at home.
Godide is also involved in a community of practice (CoP) project, which is a literacy forum made up of stakeholders from the community, including pastors, police officers, teachers and nurses.
On Thursday, 30 November, the forum held its monthly engagement.
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A librarian gave a presentation at the engagement session aimed at getting more children from the community to borrow books from libraries.
“The CoP aim is to drive literacy programmes in the community and strengthen literacy to create awareness on reading and writing in the community. It does this by mobilising people and parents to participate in the literacy development of their children. Right now, CoP is establishing a committee to go to [a nearby] library to facilitate for children in Braamfischerville to have library cards.”
He said the programme had improved reading literacy levels at schools.
The Trevor Noah Foundation’s executive director, Shalane Yuen, said the foundation was driven by Trevor Noah’s passion for education and his vision for SA being led by young people who are educated and whose talents drive the country forward.
She said Noah believes that anyone can succeed, no matter what their background is. But, to do that, people need tools, skills and networks.
Schools need to apply to be considered for partnerships with the foundation.
“We make it a very mutually beneficial relationship. We are very careful [not to] use words like we ‘adopt’ schools or ‘manage’ schools. We really see schools as our partners.”
The foundation engages with partnership schools for at least three years.
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About 20 schools in Gauteng are partnering with the TNF and there is a memorandum of understanding with the Gauteng Department of Education.
The TNF partners with a high school and seven primary schools in each of Braamfischerville, Ivory Park and Eldorado Park.
Yuen said capacitating leadership in schools is key.
“If we don’t have strong principals — who act as CEOs — if you don’t have good leadership at the top it is very hard to get support throughout the school.
“So that leader has to be very strong and we continue to provide capacity-building [workshops] for all leaders in the school.”
This includes principals, school governing bodies and senior teachers.
Second chance programme
The TNF also has an infrastructure initiative in which local unemployed young people are employed to refurbish schools.
“That programme is a second chance programme for them. They get upskilled in construction-certified skills,” said Yuen.
“For many of the young people, these are schools that they attended as well. So it becomes a ‘give back’ programme for them too. They feel good about giving back to their communities.
The foundation works closely with representative councils of learners (RCLs) in schools.
This year, they started a values-based planning project, which required RCLs to propose an ideal model for their schools.
Some learners came up with anti-bullying campaigns and put up posters in schools as part of their advocacy work.
“It might seem small, but I think it’s a combination of everything to know that they have the space to solve their own problems.” DM