By JESSICA FELDTMAN
Play-based learning has many benefits which many people might not know about. This year, the Centre for Social Development (CSD) has spread awareness in Makhanda around the value of play-based learning using the Takalani ‘Play to Learn’ programme.
The programme started through the partnership between the LEGO Foundation and Sesame Workshop, producers of the well-loved Takalani Sesame television programme. Building on their initiative ‘Play Every Day’, ‘Play to Learn’ is a part of the two foundations’ five-year plan to strengthen the power of play through learning in the classroom and at home.
The CSD aimed to pilot the ‘Play to Learn’ project in Buffalo City and Makhanda. Due to Level 4 regulations, the pilot project, which was set to begin in June, commenced on 10 August at the Emfundweni building behind the CSD.
CSD Community Programmes Coordinator Nikki Green, who is also an occupational therapist by profession, is a firm believer in the programme’s purpose. “It has been proven that children develop through play,” explained Green. “90% of children’s brain develops through interaction and play during the ages of 0-10.”
Green explained that the programme shows educators how to integrate play into the national curriculum so that children will have a more holistic educational experience starting during early childhood.
Through this initiative, the LEGO Foundation and Sesame workshops are trying to prove that South African education could have play integrated into educational policies at a local and national level.
The Takalani ‘Play to Learn’ workshops consist of two programmes. The first consists of 50 educators split into two groups who will attend weekly workshops for 12 weeks.
“We want to work with educators on their attitudes towards play-based learning and to get them to understand its importance,” Green said. “Not only does it develop the child’s growth cognitively and physically but also helps to develop their self-confidence and esteem.”
The CSD established a team of four educators who were trained to facilitate the weekly workshops. Green emphasised how the CSD were determined to have working educators run the workshops.
“We wanted to have some educators part of the delivering programme, not just on the receiving end because then it helps in making it a community-based programme, not just a service we are delivering,” Green explained.
One of the trained facilitators, Buki Wakashe, displayed much gratitude for her training and is now sharing it with other educators. “It has helped to show other teachers and me that it is better to create an environment that welcomes joyful and meaningful learning because then children will want to come to school,” Wakashe said.
Noxolo Nzwana, another facilitator, said it was fulfilling to see educators already sharing how they have implemented the methods they have learned from the two workshops.
“We have WhatsApp groups where the educators have received consent from parents to share pictures and videos of the educators teaching the children using some of the methods they learnt at the Takalani workshops,” explained Nzwana.
“That for me is so special because I can see the development in the teachers and children.”
Nomakhaya Qubuda is one teacher who has been enrolled in the programme. According to Qubuda, the techniques she’s learned from the workshops have already made a huge difference in her Grade R classroom at Capstone Christian school.
“I have changed some of my teaching methods, and I can see how the Takalani methods are more effective because children love playing,” Qubuda said.
Mummsy Mafani, a teacher from Rhodes Day Care, also had nothing but praise for how the workshops have encouraged her to become more innovative in her teaching. “Since the first workshop, one thing I’ve enjoyed the most is learning about is teaching children through play using the available resources. We need to improvise; we don’t need to use fancy things but rather use what is in front of us.”
Green reiterated Mafani’s feedback by explaining how the programme also shows teachers and parents that play doesn’t always need to involve a conventional resource.
“It’s providing an opportunity for parents and educators to see that anything can be used as a medium of play – a conversation, a song, the hand games, rhymes, poems also the use of recyclable materials to make toys and games.”
The second part of the Takalani ‘Play to Learn’ workshops aims to test ways to build partnerships between homes and schools for developing play-based school readiness.
This programme consists of 25 caregivers, their children, and educators who will also follow a 12-week programme at Nompumelelo School in Joza.
So far, the Takalani ‘Play to Learn’ has empowered many parents as they are being taught ways to contribute to their children’s learning experiences. The programme facilitator, Vatiswa Joni, explained how it shows parents how to introduce the curriculum to their children in practical ways.
“We show parents how to practice life skills, maths, communication, and language at home to their children,” Joni said. “Not only do parents bond with their children but it also helps parents to introduce curriculum, in a way, at home so when children go to school for the first time, they will have some previous knowledge on their schoolwork.”
Many parents, such as Nomhle Manto and Nomalungisa Maloni, displayed much excitement for the next few weeks of the programme.
“I am pleased with the programme and excited to learn more,” Manto said.
Maloni also explained how encouraging it is for her to see her children wanting to spend more time with her through chores. “The programme has already shown me that when I need to cook or do other chores after work, I can just ask my kids to help,” said Maloni. “It builds their confidence and self-esteem when they know I need them.”
CSD community engagement facilitator, Nolothando Shelle, reiterated Maloni’s statement by explaining how the programme focuses on growing the parent and child individually, which inevitably builds their bond.
“We want to show the parents the importance of asking their children to do things – not instruct – so that there is respect between the children and parents. This also teaches children how to be respectful not only at home but also in the classroom,” Shelle explained.
Ultimately, play-based learning can contribute to tackling poverty. “Often the focus is on the youth, but if our focus is on children and child development, giving them proper opportunities to learn and grow, we get to break that cycle of poverty that exists in under-resourced communities,” Green said.
“If we develop the way they learn from early childhood, there is a greater chance that they will succeed in school and life.”
About the journalist
I am Jessica Feldtman, a 22-year-old fourth-year Bachelor of Journalism student at Rhodes University.
Despite all the challenges facing South Africa, I have always been very passionate about this nation and its people. Being able to meet and hear the stories of South Africans from different walks of life brings me more excitement than eating pasta (and my loved ones know how much I love pasta)!
At present, I am very interested in South African education, especially early childhood development and literacy. I believe education is a fundamental tool for shaping our nation. My overall mission as an aspiring journalist is to see hope translated into reality. I intend to shape this by working with citizens to share stories of hope and encourage understanding and solidarity.
If you have stories you would like to share or have investigated, feel free to contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org