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Reflections on future-proofing the After School sector

Without a doubt, the need for the services of the developmental sector multiplied during the pandemic period. For many After School Programmes (ASPs), work priorities had to shift and extend beyond usual programming to implement innovative solutions informed by the greatest needs. These included, creating home-schooling opportunities through online/mobile learning, providing widespread psycho-social support, contributing to food security initiatives, and even providing capacity support to schools as they re-opened under strict measures. Indeed, COVID-19 has laid bare the sheer lack of resources and capacity in our poorest communities, which in turn disproportionately affect the lives of the children and youth we seek to advance. And so, how do we ensure that when the unexpected happens, we are well prepared to adapt to change and fulfil our primary goals and objectives? 

This past quarter, our Western Cape Community of Practice explored the ways in which we can ‘future-proof’ the After School sector against potential uncertainties and environmental circumstances often beyond our knowledge and control. The exploration was framed to take into consideration the following key factors, 
 1.  Organisational flexibility 
 2.  Programme Adaptation 
 3.  Connection with learners 
 4.  Unusual Collaborations 

The session gave organisations the rare opportunity to reflect on the rapid shifts and adaptations they had to contend with under unusual restrictions, and derive lessons from some of the significant decisions that were made. Driving this exercise was the foundational principle that organisations ought to keep record of adaptational changes and even go further to formalise response plans as part of their organisational policies that would ensure readiness for any potential future crises. The reflective exercise revealed that a majority of organisations were able to adapt to changes whilst employing innovative methods that allowed them to maintain programme continuity. No matter how big or small the efforts or adjustments, organisations went into full mode of trial and error to establish best working practices; yielding impactful results for learners. 

Beyond taking care of their learners through continued engagements, it also became apparent that in order to achieve their goals, organisations had to prioritise the wellbeing of their dedicated staff. Unsurprisingly, the pandemic period also offered organisations an opportunity to gain new perspectives and form creative and value-aligned collaborations. These new collaborations enabled organisations to improve on efficiency and effectiveness, while allowing programme redesign and development, which go a long way in adapting sustainably to change. 

As we look to the future of the After School sector and its impact, there is no escaping the long-lasting disruptions to education that have been brought on by the pandemic, which will require us to make a stronger case for the need of our complimentary support. That is only possible if we remain flexible, adaptable, connected and collaborative in our approach to future-proof the sector. To read the latest CoP Learning Brief that captures all the key lessons on ‘Future Proofing the After School sector’, click here.

The After School Treasure Box extends beyond 
the pandemic and lockdown


In the past quarter, the second volume of our collaborative Treasure Box project with the Youth & After School Programme Office (WCG - DCAS)ASSITEJ SALaureus Sport for Good Foundation, Florence and Watson, and Community Chest has managed to reach more learners than we could have ever imagined. The first volume of our printed Treasure Box Activity Packs was translated into 5 languages and distributed across 3 provinces, mainly in Gauteng, Western Cape and Eastern Cape. The second volume has now reached 6 provinces (with the addition of Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and Northern Cape).

Treasure Box Activity Packs, Vol. 2 – targeted at grade 1-5 learners – brought even more educational challenges, valuable skills, and games to play at home with family, including social distancing games to play at school with friends. In September we received an invite to appear on the Expresso Morning Show (SABC 3) for an interview with the host Katlego Maboe about why this is such a valuable project, not just for the After School sector but for the majority of learners across the country that are not receiving the same quality resources and access as the privileged minority. 

As we fast approach the end of the academic school year, there is a tremendous burden placed on schools and teachers to make up for many weeks of learning that were lost, consequently putting learners under extreme pressure to perform under precarious circumstances. Given the severe limitations of our public-school system to support the development of the whole child – even outside of the context of a pandemic – access to After School programme activities is vital to meet the needs of these vulnerable learners. 

The Treasure Box collaboration began as a special project borne as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic and capitalised on the emergency funding provisions that supported education efforts under lockdown conditions. It is now clear that its value extends beyond the needs of children during the restrictions, limitations and irregularities of the pandemic. As the Treasure Box partners, we aim to continue creating new narrative worlds and producing more volumes of the Activity Packs!

Get involved in the #LightsOnAfterSchool Advocacy this October!

This October we are putting the spotlight on After School Programmes (ASPs) and calling all After School organisations in South Africa to participate in the global #LightsOnAfterSchool campaign. Supported by partners like the Youth and After School Programme Office (WCG) and the Community Chest to raise the visibility of the sector, this will mark our first year joining the 21-year old campaign that was launched by the US-based Afterschool Alliance on 22 Oct 2000. 

The international movement is aimed at increasing awareness of the After School sector and its impact on improving learner outcomes and broader education as a whole. Participating in this movement comes at such a pivotal time, as our most vulnerable children have suffered through tremendous learning challenges this year. Continued support for the After School sector is essential if we are to mitigate the impact Covid-19 has had on learning, and the #LightsOnAfterSchool campaign highlights the critical role that ASPs play in providing equal access to educational as well as psycho-social support.

Over 70 organisations have already signed up to advocate for After School this October. If you haven’t already, we encourage you to JOIN the digital campaign and SHOW US all the activities you will get up to in your programmes to celebrate on the 22nd of October!

Helping grantees support communities through food distributions

Challenges of food shortages in South Africa were magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic. This saw many After School organisations implementing measures to meet the growing need for food security in our communities. Through the coordinated distribution of food parcels, we helped our grantees to reach communities in need. The Maitri Trust, a Scotland based funder, generously provided emergency funding to drive this food relief initiative as part of their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Whilst learners stayed at home, it was apparent that food aid was just as important to continue remote learning. Our partnerships with grantees in Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Gauteng led to a successful distribution of parcels which included food, PPE and other necessities to nearly 25 000 people. The Mamelodi Initiative who, along with many of our grantees, led in the distribution process shared the outcome of food parcels distributed in the township of Mamelodi to over 600 learners. 
Watch The Mamelodi Initiative’s video, and read more on our food relief initiative.
Grantees Cindy Mkaza-Siboto and Grant Edmond nominated for 
100 South African Shining Stars of 2020 
The Shining Stars Awards celebrate 100 young South Africans making positive impact through excellence in their fields. The annual awards acknowledge the youth who espouse the same values of kindness as those of the late former president, Nelson Mandela. Cindy Mkaza-Siboto, Co-Founder of Emagqabini Education Academy and Grant Edmond, Co-Founder of Just Grace were nominated under the education category, amongst many others who made the top 100 Shining Stars this past July. 

Nomination under the education category meant that these Shining Stars went above and beyond to ensure that no learner was left behind, even with the closure of schools during lockdown. The Learning Trust has funded and supported Just Grace and Emagqabini’s After School programmes for the past five years respectively.  

Cindy Mkaza-Siboto established Emagqabini in 2014, after watching with concern as her younger sister struggled with her homework, without any support outside of school hours. Motivated to close the gap in young people’s education, she co-founded Emagqabini Education Academy in Khayelitsha. Emagqabini offers homework support and academic assistance to high school learners in order for them to access the best post-schooling opportunities. 

In the township of Langa, Cape Town, Grant Edmond runs youth empowerment programmes through his organisation, Just Grace. Their programmes cover computer skills, career guidance and other mechanisms to encourage learner retention in schools and prepare youth to contribute meaningfully to society and maximize their earning potential later in life. 
Congratulations to Cindy and Grant for their Shining Star accolades. 
We remain inspired by their amazing work and leadership in their respective communities! 
Phakamani Young Minds Academy Collaborates with FNB 
to support Financial Literacy

Teaching youth about financial literacy has become more prominent over recent years. Debt has become easier to accumulate and more young people have fallen into the trap, with very little understanding of personal finances and the importance of financial wellbeing in general. For many youths from disadvantaged backgrounds, conversations about financial literacy are rare. Although vaguely covered within the school curriculum, opportunities to interact with professional institutions such as banks are almost non-existent. 

Through a virtual financial literacy webinar, Phakamani Young Minds Academy (PYMA) – a youth led After School organisation – collaborated with First National Bank (FNB) under the theme “Unlocking Young Potential” to offer staff and volunteers insights and understanding of Personal Finances, Human Resources and Financial literacy/management. The webinar was led by an FNB facilitator and presented to youth from PYMA and other youth-led organisations. 

Participants were taken through a series of topics such as Budgeting, Savings & Investments, Credit Debt & Loans, and making personal finance decisions. Another segment focused on Human Resource Management and covered content on topics such as, ‘Employee relationship Management’ and ‘Creating an enabling environment for employees.’ 

Creating spaces where youth led organisations share lessons about such important topics has long term impact on the sustainability of an organisation.


Lessons from the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Africa’s 
Data Collective Project

Monitoring and evaluation in the After School sector is essential to measure the impact of our programmes and advocate for the sector effectively. The Boys and Girls Clubs of South Africa (BGCSA) runs programmes that inspire and enable young people to reach their full potential as caring, responsible and productive citizens. Through the Gauteng Data Collectivewe partnered with BGCSA to instill a culture of data collection and analysis practices amongst Gauteng-based grantees. Through this, organisations are encouraged to work together to track the beneficiaries they serve and advocate for the After School sector effectively. 

Since inception, the GP data collective sessions have brought together different grantees to start using their individual strengths towards building collaborative impact in the After School sector. This year, we conducted two sessions to unpack the basics of Monitoring & Evaluation practices to better understand the effectiveness of programmes. Some of the important lessons that came out of the sessions with BGCSA include the necessity for organisations to record data by using simplified attendance tracking tools. Grantees also learnt the importance of learner retention and how After School Programmes can develop as a collective and build on this work in order to strengthen ASPs and organisational sustainability.   


Stay safe and stay connected,
The Learning Trust Team