AN education programme spearheaded by the Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm Foundation and aimed at improving literacy and numeracy in primary schools is assisting 6 762 pupils from 12 schools.
The wind farm has committed just more than R1.3-million to its foundation-phase reading coaches support programme over a three-year period.
Since the programme started in October last year, the wind farm has spent R198 000 on books for the 6 762 pupils – all falling within a 50km radius of the wind farm.
Institute of Training and Education for Capacity Building director Zukile Ningi said the wind farm had approached the organisation for assistance.
“We are in the education field and when they told us what they wanted to do we placed adverts in the areas where the schools are situated,” he said.
“We then recruited reading coaches from those areas – primarily unemployed youth with matric or who have left university.”
He said each school received one reading coach and then pupils with reading problems were identified and taken to a separate room in small groups for individual attention.
Coaches run reading sessions with groups of up to 15 pupils at a time, from grades 1 to 3, although she said most groups were smaller so each child got individual attention.
“We found in some schools with classes of 40 or more they were not getting the attention they required,” Ningi said.
“Since the reading coaches were introduced, principals have reported a tremendous improvement.
“One school which is relatively bigger than the others also requested two more reading coaches which they have already received,” he said.
Apart from reading material, schools had also received shelving to convert classrooms into mini-libraries.
Gamtoos Valley Primary principal Christelle McCabe said: “We are so happy to be part of this programme. It really is working.”
She said since the wind farm introduced reading coaches last year pupils were more enthusiastic about reading.
“Both the stronger readers and those with special needs are more motivated,” she said.
“We have seen a 25% increase in their reading speed in just three months.
“The coach also uses different techniques to assist pupils and they go for regular training as well to assist pupils.”
She said the school had received shelving as well as R7 000 in books from the wind farm’s programme.
Wind farm economic development manager Marion Green-Thompson said: “It is widely acknowledged that the biggest challenge to education outcomes is the lack of literacy and numeracy skills at the foundation-phase stage . . .”