NGO empowers Matabeleland communities with literacy skills

A Zimbabwean couple based in South Africa has set up a non-governmental organisation, Isibanesethu community learning group,  meant to promote early literacy development and community health education in rural and marginalised communities.

Isibanesethu Community Learning group aims to change community behaviour and attitude towards education to reduce premature school dropouts, unplanned immigration to neighbouring countries, crime and early marriages. 

Speaking to CITE the founder, Sibhekaphi Sibanda who is a former student from Ntulula Primary School in Tsholotsho said they also empower parents and guardians with literacy skills.

“We have facilitated community literacy awareness workshops where mothers and caregivers were empowered in imparting basic literacy skills to their children and be able to do early detection of barriers to learning in early child development,” said Sibanda.

“We train and give continuous support to literacy coaches who work with the community to sustain the program.

Sibanda said they have established a community library to promote the culture of reading.

“We have established community libraries in the same community to promote the culture of reading and ensure that communities have access to reading resources. We are currently working on a project to source a solar system to power the Library and Information Centre as the use of diesel has proved to be financially unsustainable,” she said.

In addition, Sibanda said their projects also cater for school dropouts to motivate them to go back to school.

 “Poverty and lack of positive role models in the Tsholotsho district has historically led to early dropout from school and premature migration to neighbouring South Africa where youths engage in criminal activities to achieve their dreams hence youth skills development is important to us,” she said.

“We have empowered youths with various life skills by establishing a  finishing school initiative, encouraging youths who dropped out of school to finish their secondary education,  we offer basic computer skills and give possible career paths through skills development at the local community centre that we have established.”

She said they also managed to organise Grade 7 online lessons during the induced Covid-19 lockdown.

“Due to Covid-19, we managed to offer virtual lessons to rural learners using smartphones where they connect via Whatsapp. Our learners could not access the ZBC radio lessons because in Tsholotsho we do not have radio coverage,” said Sibanda.

She added: “ We also promote community health education by hosting monthly health-themed checkups where community members have workshops on selected health topics with the view of promoting a healthy lifestyle and dispelling myths about certain diseases, That also promotes early access to screening and early detection of possible killer diseases like diabetes, BP, dementia and others”.

Contacted for a comment, Lead facilitator in Tsholotsho, Beauty Ncube said the youths have welcomed the initiative.

“Our youths are very excited about the program and they have shown interest in learning we hope that this will help them improve their academic results. Some learners have been coming for evening classes doing computers, our challenge has been issues of fuel to power our generator but all the processes have been going well,” said Ncube.

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