2020-07-06 SOUTH AFRICA

Three2Six Project operates through the lockdown

Sacred Heart’s Three2Six Refugee Support Project has continued to operate during this time of lockdown providing educational guidance and food support for families.


The Three2Six Project has continued to operate from the homes of children. Two weeks ago, we were able to get all the children’s textbooks home to them and the teachers have continued to use WhatsApp to guide them through their work. We also provided additional money for data for teachers. Throughout the lockdown, we have offered food support to the families, and to date, we have been able to channel R540 000 worth of support. This has been made possible by the generous support from members of the public, religious organisations and our regular donors.

We are moving towards the return to school and are keen to get teaching and learning in the classroom back on track again. Teachers have been trained by Doctors Without Borders on how to minimize the risk of being infected by COVID-19. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has been purchased for the project and we have been planning how to manage social distancing both on transport and at school.

There are mixed sentiments about the return to school in the country with teacher unions and parent bodies not wanting everyone to return at different times. The concern has been the uneven distribution of PPE in the different districts. This meant a delay in the return to school for children throughout the country. We are very mindful not to put and children and teachers at risk and have established the necessary protocols and procedures to mitigate any risk.

We must make sure that there is social distancing when children come to school and go home, as well as when they are in the classroom. We have agreed that we would stagger the contact days to achieve this. Only half of the children will attend each day, and the week will be extended to include Saturday. One group will attend Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; and the other will attend Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. We will also extend the teaching day to help us catch up on the work that has been missed. This is particularly important for our Grade R group and our Grade 1s. We are also planning to have residential camps, under strict COVID-19 protocols, later in the year with our older children to offer additional support.

Three2Six Project - South Africa

Research all over the world is showing that there is considerable psychological pressure caused by lockdown conditions, as well as the fear of catching an unknown virus. Children need debriefing and counseling support and we are arranging with our partner organizations to offer this support to our children.

We are very proud of what we have achieved in difficult conditions. Our teachers have gone the extra mile to make sure that the children are safe and doing well. Teachers have been incredibly innovative in the use of WhatsApp and have stretched this medium to capacity. However, this is still a poor substitute for face-to-face teaching in a classroom, particularly with 2nd language children who are at the start of learning new skills. We know that it is imperative to get back into the regular teaching and learning cycle as soon as we can.

School closures like the one we have experienced in South Africa have never happened in the world on the scale that it has before. We have had to be agile and to think on our feet. In implementing our approach, we had to ensure that children we’re being fed and that they had the support of the teachers. We then had to try and make sure that children were learning. Our teachers have been a critical element in our approach, particularly because they know the children and their families, and the struggles they face. Teachers have been able to personalise the curriculum and reach the children where they’re at. Teachers have learned how to keep it simple and that less is more.

Assessment is particularly difficult in online distance learning as teachers are used to carrying out assessments in the classroom. It has been virtually impossible to track pupil progress when they are at a distance, and this is an area that we will have to catch up.

Not all parents have smartphones, and this is meant that some children did not always participate in lessons. However, there are heartwarming stories about how parents have shared phones to ensure their children access WhatsApp lessons.

Our experience of online learning has once again shown us how inequality impacts on the lives of people. In our earlier updates, we did explain how the livelihoods of our parents were disrupted by the lockdown and how they lost their sources of income, almost instantly. We can only imagine the pressure families have been under during this time. We were saddened by the regular reports from our families and from other organisations working with refugees explaining just how refugees we excluded from government emergency food aid. On the other hand, we have been encouraged by the support we have received from individuals and from organizations in our country to assist our children and their families.

Mark Potterton


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