School principal and UWC researcher help two Wellington girls realise their dreams

School principal and UWC researcher  help two Wellington girls realise their dreams.

Catherine Joubert from Wellington was one of countless people caught in a job that was destroying her soul. When her grade one school teacher passed her while she was working in road construction, waving her flag as she regulated the traffic, she would drop her gaze, ashamed. But that all changed after she took up the challenge to volunteer at a homework centre in her hometown.

This year Catherine is one of two young women, along with childhood friend Tayala Afrika, to become the first in their families to have enrolled at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Wellington campus, with the hope of eventually becoming teachers - and this thanks to two remarkable women who stepped in to provide the support and financial backing to help them complete their schooling and further their studies, and inspired them to succeed.

It started out with a teacher well-being project in Wellington focusing on helping teachers to cope with their particular challenges.

The school homework club grew out of an initiative of the Teacher Well-Being (TWB) project

Homework and Study Club: Where it all began

Dr Karen Corlett, University of the Western Cape (UWC) researcher in the Faculty of Education, was the project facilitator, working in collaboration with a funding partner and retired Groenberg Primary School principal, Gloria Samson.

Teachers felt demoralised by the then low achievement levels of learners and the high number of learners that required additional support due to a range of language and learning barriers. The staff identified a homework and study club as a strategy to  improve learners’ academic results and build a stronger supportive relationship between learners, teachers and parents/guardians.

“Groenberg Primary School was one of the four schools we worked with,” Dr Corlett says, “but because of Mrs Samson’s passion and love for teaching, they started a homework club at the school catering for all the children in the area, aimed at improving learners’ academic results. The homework club focused on supporting the learners, as their parents are often unable to assist them with their homework tasks.”

Both Catherine and Tayala attended the homework club when they were in high school, and continued to attend in high school. And when Catherine came back as a volunteer, she found Tayala was already volunteering - working with kids, helping them find solutions for themselves.

“Mrs Samson is like a mother to all the children she has taught over the years,” Tayala says. “This journey is very exciting for the both of us because she connected us with people who want to see us succeed and break the chain of poverty in our families.”

Catherine, one of the recipients and a beneficiary of donor funding, says she is very passionate about teaching and education as a whole, because it has opened a lot of doors for the childhood friends.

“I want to thank Mrs Samson for believing in me since day one. After I completed my grade 12, I went to work as a municipal worker and Mrs Samson saw me on the road while driving by and called me,” she says.

“She asked this is what I want to do for the rest of my life - and when I said no, she asked me to volunteer at the homework club, which is where I gained more experience in teaching and how to work with children.”

She believes her homework club experience will help her with her  teaching course which she will be doing at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.

Educating for local needs

Mrs Samson, a now-retired principal at Groenberg Primary school, says the school staff and community are proud to celebrate the achievement of these learners-turning-teachers. “I have known these girls since they were very young: I was their grade 1 teacher and saw them complete their high schooling career - excelling in their academics.”

Challenges such as teenage pregnancy and dropping out of school are rife in the Wellington area, as many young people leave school to work on the farms in an attempt to generate more income for their households.

“It was and still is very important to me to see them succeed in life, because not a lot of girls from the rural areas make it to tertiary education,” Mrs Samson adds. “In this farming community parents are often not able to assist their children with homework tasks as they come home late in the evening or they do not speak the language used for teaching and there are also some parents that are not able to read and write.”

With the support of a funder who saw the benefit of the homework club, these two learners will now be able to achieve their dream of attending a university.

“And now Tayala and Catherine will come from their classes in the afternoons and they can come and help me with the club,” Mrs Sampson says, “so more children can get into high school and go onto further study.”

Fees, text books, accommodation and a stipend of R1000 a month are included in the opportunity, and will be paid for by the donor towards the two girls’ expenses. The funder has also agreed to support  Dr Collett with funding to research the value of homework/study clubs in supporting learner achievement and retention in schools.