When Neliswa Dudla, established the Early Birds lifestyle Academy, she wanted to bring a different approach to teaching while addressing the endless challenges faced by public schools-particularly those in the townships.
The academy, which provides afternoon and weekend classes for Khayelitsha children, was established last June.
The academy provides lessons in mathematics and physical science for high school pupils and also offers subjects such as creative arts, English and religious studies. They also focus on things they believe are neglected in public schools, such as public speaking-or something as simple as counting to 50.
The academy currently has two computers and a couple of books. Ms Dudla, who has a degree and post graduate certificate in Education as well as a qualification in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), from the University Cape Town (UCT), said during the week they assist the children with their school work. And every Saturday they offer a full school session, from the morning until the afternoon. She said after she graduated from UCT in 2016, she got part-time teaching jobs and that is when she discovered the many challenges that public schools face. Among these challenges were that teachers in the public schools were overwhelmed with pupils and battled to cope.
The 29-year-old said pupils were not getting enough attention and time from the teachers and that affected their learning. She highlighted that some children were slow learners and needed special attention from teachers. But teachers had lots of work, so they were unable to have one-on-one sessions with them and address their challenges.
She said townships schools were overcrowded, which, she said, robbed children of the opportunity to get the best education.
Other challenges, she said, were that many schools were poorly resourced and had not built good relationships with pupils’ parents.
When she started the academy, she had eight children attending the sessions but within a week she had scores more. Currently the academy has 60 children. She said for the very young children the curriculum focuses on English, writing, learning through playing and physical exercise.
“I have always wanted to be a teacher. Teachers are the creators of new leaders and responsible citizens,” she said.