We recently caught up with Lungisa Sobhuwa, an Education Changemaker and grant recipient from Cohort #1. Lungisa runs a project called Sikhululekile Reading Development & Life Skills. Sikhululekile is a literacy initiative that works with children to author their own books in Philippi, Cape Town.
In a Q & A, we asked Lungisa to share his journey since he joined the Education Changemakers (ECM) programme and his progress to date.
TNF: Tell us a bit about your journey as a teacher? How did your journey inspire you to innovatively change classrooms and/or communities?
Lungisa: My journey as an afterschool teacher has taught me to be resilient and patient. The kids we are dealing with come from different backgrounds. This means you have do adapt to many different situations in order to accommodate everyone. Resilience is the most important trait in this field. Our sector is under-resourced therefore you have to be resilient and innovative in order to keep moving forward.
TNF: Please share why you started the project and how it’s coming along.
Lungisa: We started our project back in 2013 after noticing the literacy gap between children that went to public schools and private schools in our community. Our aim was to bridge the literacy gap between the two. We decide to create the biggest literacy club in our community at the time. At one point we would have over 70 volunteers and 350 students. Those were exciting times because we had managed to mobilise many community members for a good cause. We got book donations from companies. We had a mobile library and feeding support. The managed to keep the momentum for a couple of weeks however the number of volunteers and learners kept going down.
This led us to develop a new policy. The policy is quality over quantity. I must say this has been working wonders. We’ve seen our learners progressing successfully in academics.
The program is going very well at the moment and we’ve managed to integrate it into Fairdale Primary’s extramural activities.
TNF: Share a challenge you have run into while running the project and how you adapted the project to solve this challenge.
Lungisa: Our biggest challenge has been a lack of funding and resources. When we started, we started as a voluntary association. We believed our project would be driven by volunteers. This proved to be our biggest mistake. Volunteers would come and go every week. We put so much energy into our volunteer recruitment drive, only to find out most volunteers wanted stipends for their services. The constant change in volunteers led to the disturbance in the rhythm of our programmes.
Right now we are adopting a different model. We are actively seeking funding opportunities and we are working on fundraising event opportunities.
TNF: How would you describe the ECM programme experience?
Lungisa: More than anything the ECM programme was an eye-opener for me. It got me to see education from a different perspective. I no longer see education as this one-dimensional chalkboard and pen institution because of the exposure I got from the ECM programme.
I also got to understand innovation in greater detail. It inspired me to think about innovative solutions on a consistent basis. One particular event I will never forget is when we went to visit Monde Primary School. Monde Primary School should be used as a model for improving our schools. When you look on the outside you see a dilapidated old school. On the inside, you see brilliance innovation and hope. This school uses data to improve educational outcomes.
TNF: What value does the Trevor Noah Foundation bring to your journey as an Education Changemaker? What did you learn?
Lungisa: Firstly I would like to thank the Foundation for giving us this wonderful opportunity. It has opened so many doors for me. It has linked me up with great young leaders from all over the continent. I collaborated with three Education Changemakers to host a very successful online seminar. We are planning to do more of these Education Changemaker events in the near future.
Also, the funding has allowed me to bring our innovation to life. It has allowed us to take our project to the next level. Currently, our project is a book that is authored by two of our beneficiaries. Their names are Chuma and Linamandla both 11-year-old Grade 5 learners. The name of their book is called Monster in a Mask.
We are inspired to create our own stories as result. We are are also currently assisting our learners to write an interesting child story called Future Dale Hero’s Primary.
TNF: What advice do you have for educators who have an innovative idea?
Lungisa: I would encourage educators to start experimenting immediately. I would encourage them to believe in their ideas and not to be crippled by a fear of failure. They must take failure as a lesson, not as a dearth sentence. Their biggest regret will not come from failing but it will come from not trying.
Start soon and start small!
Follow the progress of the Sikhululekile Reading Development & Lifeskills project on Facebook @srdl21july2012