It was writer T.S. Eliot who was quoted as saying: “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”
How true this has been over the past 20 years for READ Educational Trust’s Rally to Read Programme. When it was launched in 1996, the team encountered impassable roads, inadequate training, minimal resources and poverty. Today, the landscape remains the same, but remarkable headway has been made through time.
Every September and October, a convoy sets out to deliver educational materials and offer educator development to remote primary schools, some of which have never been visited before. Rally participants engage both learners and teachers, and each earmarked Rally school is enrolled in the programme for a period of three years. During this time, in-service teacher training is supported with quality resource provision, and progress is carefully monitored. The primary objective of the Rally programme is to improve the literacy, language and comprehension skills of primary school learners in remote schools.
Ten years into the programme, it was decided to include training for school principals (managers). This has been found to be an effective way of reinforcing the impact of training and resources. This move was hugely successful.
Simon Nqcongwane, Principal of Ndlaphu Primary, an Mpumalanga Rally school commented: “I was appointed principal in 1998. I had a dream to create the school in the area. My school is now in its final Rally year. Rally created the ‘wheels’ and has taken me seventy percent of the way on my journey to realising my dream.”
The countless dedicated educators who have managed to turn their schools around within the three Rally years are evidence that the Rally can serve as a model for wide-scale rural education. Project schools that often begin with bare classroom walls and despondent teachers are so grateful for the intervention as well as the much-needed attention. Colourful classrooms conducive to learning, teaching methodologies that are user-friendly, child-centred and produce results, combined with relevant resources that are meaningful to the learner are the key factors that build up over time and contribute towards a model of best practice.
The sky’s the limit as far as we’re concerned. Careful programme management and a passion for literacy will ensure that every penny spent on this initiative, is a penny well spent!