The COVID-19 pandemic had a major, two year, negative impact on our learners, educators and on the Good Start Trust’s work.
RIP MS FIONA SELLAR
At St Mary’s Primary, we suffered a great loss in that Ms Fiona Sellar, beloved Principal, passed away just before schools re-opened in January 2022. Her death was certainly Covid-related. Mrs Petersen as Acting Principal steered the school most ably through this very difficult time. In January 2023, Mr Ronaldo Jean-Louis was appointed as new Principal, and the school is steadily back on track.
TWO YEAR DEFICIT IN LITERACY TO OVERCOME
During Covid our learners were not privileged enough to tap into distance learning on line, as few have access to computers at home. Parents could at times fetch worksheets from the schools (and made use of the opportunity to collect bags of e’pap too to supplement food at home), but this was not the most effective way of learning at all. As a result, there are now marked gaps in education, particularly in LITERACY. Our SMART CLUB has been hard at work. We are now able to subsidise Educational Psychology and Paediatric Psychiatry assessments. Our Speech Therapist, also a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) specialist, is working at one-to-one sessions with learners at both schools. Our Occupational Therapy has also put in all the time she could, one-to-one, for the past year and more. Lack of funding has unfortunately brought this specialist service to a halt mid-way through 2023. Re-instating this valuable service is a priority for 2024. However, group Brain Gym and gross as well as fine motor-co-ordination, linking into phonics and numeracy, has been a great success at both schools with the youngest learners, Gr R and 1. After lockdown these support systems were an enormous help for the young children who returned to school with poor muscle tone and inability to sit at a desk for extended periods of time. We are also trialling focused Learning Enrichment, focussing on Reading for Meaning skills, for small groups of Gr 5 and 6 learners whose literacy skills were very badly effected by the Covid lockdown of schools.
BREAKFASTS ARE ESSENTIAL
BREAKFAST CLUB: numbers of children eating nutritious e’Pap and fruit breakfasts are on the increase. Initially, our youngest learners were fearful of eating food not given to them by mothers. So much fear surrounded the experience of the Covid pandemic. In addition, parents’ incomes were decimated, and global conditions of oil price hikes, war and climate disasters are all forcing the cost of living to rocket sky high.
Parents are very grateful for the healthy meal provided by Breakfast Club for their children before school starts. In total, close to 500 children benefit daily from our breakfasts. We are grateful that funding has this year allowed a second bulk order of e’Pap, our main nutrient. We anticipate that we will need to make another order in October/November, and reach out for the funding for this essential purpose.
VOLUNTEERS AND VISITORS ARE WELCOMED BACK
The need for minimum personnel to run Breakfast Club during Covid times, meant that no volunteers or visitors could join in. However, the full contingency of helpers are back, with some new faces too, and visitors from home (from Newlands to Johannesburg) and abroad (from the USA, UK and Switzerland) have been most welcome to join in mixing, washing or drying.