Phenduka Literacy


Johannesburg, South Africa

Phenduka is the Zulu word for "turnaround"

Background information and project description.

Since the year 2000, The Phenduka Literacy Project has been active in Alexandra , one of the poorest townships of South Africa. The project is officially registered as an NGO project, and is recognized as making a contribution to literacy upliftment by the Gauteng Department of Education..

Despite the multitude of NGO projects in South Africa there is a lack of good educational systems. Children and young boys and girls attend under very trying circumstances schools that lack teaching quality, equipment and infrastructure.
Result: what they learn there is totally insufficient.

The purpose of the programme is to help improve the teaching and learning of reading and writing in disadvantaged primary schools. Various national and international evaluations of literacy levels in South African schools suggest that only 36% of learners read at the appropriate level. Yet reading skills form the basis of almost all learning. To help children develop their skills, the programme uses the "balanced approach" to literacy learning. This is a carefully modulated mix between a technical phonics approach and a more cultural story-based approach. The Phenduka project faces the following tasks:

  1. to actively improve reading
  2. to develop patterns for teachers enabling them to apply these methods in the classroom and instruct the educators on how to improve reading and writing
  3. to fully integrate remedial children back into their classes by applying this method and ensuring that they participate enthusiastically in the learning process. Their perception of learning is thus radically changed. School becomes "something to look forward to with pleasure and joy".

The unique aspect of the Phenduka Project is that the class as a whole is involved in a dynamic and creative way in the learning process. A specialist staff of 4 attend the classes of up to 35 pupils. Within five to six weeks, children who were not previously able to read are able to catch up with their peers and read stories at various levels, with a degree of fluency. Teachers are also introduced to more effective ways of teaching reading through our teacher workshops in literacy methodology.