Thanda After-School- “creating playful learning spaces at home”


A member of the Thanda team with Rosemary and her 3 grandchildren


Who is Thanda?

Thanda adopts holistic approach to improve the living conditions of vulnerable households in South Africa. Founded in 2008, the organization operates in uMtwalume, a remote rural community located in the South Coast of KwaZulu Natal. Thanda runs Early Learning, Education and Organic Farming Programmes which reach over 1500 individuals that utilize a Creative Learning Curriculum to empower individuals to create a positive change. With its roots firmly in childhood care and development, the organization runs several programs which focus on creating environments conducive for inquiry-based learning, and learner engagement. In April 2020, as a response to remote learning and children having little or no access to formal schooling due to COVID-19 restrictions, Thanda created ‘Our Learning at Home Programme’, which was an emergency provision designed to continue developing skills in children in the absence of formal school or afterschool programmes. The Learning at Home Programme enables guardians and older siblings to be at-home teachers using a fun-filled and story-based curriculum with activities to do five days a week for two weeks together with simple to follow instructions distributed to households every month. Thanda provides support and guidance to families through home visits where home visitors run-through any areas guardians have problems with and clarify any issues families have. The programme focuses on guided play through themed education packs including puzzles, treasure hunts, word searches, discovery walks, art, numeracy activities for mathematics, art projects, and science experiments. Thanda explains “the activities are designed to be familiar enough for guardians [parents] that they would not feel alienated or overwhelmed but feel encouraged to use new concepts such as learning through play using discovery and art learning and participatory learning”. When Covid-19 restrictions were relaxed somewhat in September 2020 and Thanda could return to in person learning, the frequency of the distribution of Learning at Home packs was reduced to once a month but still continued. In 2021, Thanda has also used the packs to provide emotional support to families and to encourage and equip guardians to provide emotional support to children in order to help them deal with and process the emotions evoked by Covid-19, loss and grief during the pandemic and in other areas of life.


· Fun with LEGO

With the support of several organizations, like Care for Education, Thanda also provides learning resources which include Six Bricks to hundreds of children in rural KwaZulu Natal. These resources aim at encouraging parents to play and learn with their children. Thanda has 877 children enrolled in their programme who they provide monthly packs to, where children use LEGO to develop their fine motor skills, lateral thinking, and spatial awareness.


· Reading is fun

Thanda is also an advocate for reading and literacy. Partnering with Book Dash, a South African organization, Thanda provides context-rich stories which focus on a real life-dilemma to teach children about values, embracing diversity and accepting others.


Challenges

The Thanda team has also dealt with many challenges during the implementation of its projects, namely, how to ensure that children engage meaningfully with content, helping guardians to become at-home teachers, and designing activities that are engaging but require little or no resources other than those provided by Thanda. Home visitors also face emotional challenges as they are employees from the community and are not all trained in counselling and have been responsible for dealing with in-depth issues through the visits. These include dealing with conflict within families, talking about loss and grief, visiting households that are living in extreme poverty and children being shouted at. Notably, despite some of the challenges, Thanda remains committed to bringing change to rural communities, and has a growing support programme to guide home visitors through this journey.