“I’m doing this from my heart.” The teacher taking on South Africa’s education crisis after hours

 
 
 

Every day, the state of our country’s education seems to get worse. The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study recently showed that as many as 78% of South African children in Grade 4 are illiterate. The inability to read has knock-on effects for a child’s chances of progressing in other subjects, and while the onus is on parents as well as teachers to provide support, there are instances when this is not possible. With almost three decades of experience working with children, Nomakholwa Gxowa understands the challenges and is working to combat them.

“Many parents in the township are illiterate and battle to help their children with schoolwork,” Gxowa says. “I needed to do something.” The teacher at Kukhanyile Primary School in Khayelitsha started an after-school programme to assist with homework, spending four days a week providing one-on-one support to 30 children. Since 2012, that number has more than doubled. Gxowa’s husband, a retired teacher, often steps in to help.

Gxowa recalls parents initially being uncertain about sending their child to another facility because they assumed an added cost. But the programme is completely free. She uses her own money to buy additional books, as well as snacks to sustain the children. Yet the teacher feels it’s a sacrifice worth making. “It doesn’t take much to make a difference,” she says. “I’m doing this from my heart.” The children also participate in games and dancing which keep them occupied and off the streets. With this kind of care and attention, pass rates and literacy levels can only improve, and the children nurtured by Gxowa are on their way to reaching their full capabilities.