University’s CEAD runs reading competition to improve learners’ English

Sukuma Lower Primary School learners, with their teachers, Education department officials, Mthethweni Primary School Principal, and MUT staff

Being aware of the dire situation at South African schools, the University’s Community Engagement and Development (CEAD) directorate organised an English Reading Competition for Umlazi Township schools. Four lower primary schools – Sukuma Combined Primary, Mgijimi primary school, Ingelosi primary school and Embonini primary school, met at Mthethweni primary school, to take part in the competition. Each school had five grade 4 learners. Learners were judged in terms of the following categories: fluency, volume, reading performance, expression, presentation, and skills. Overall winners were Sukuma Lower Primary school learners, Minenhle Bhengu and Boniswa Mdlangathi. Their teacher, Lindeni Mkhize, said the learners were focussed and determine.  The winners receive trophies. All participants received certification of participating.

CEAD’s Dr David Ighodaro said they wanted to assist learners to read with understanding. English is not the first language for learners in these schools. Deputy Director at the CEAD, Buyisiwe Ngidi, explained to the learners, their teachers and the Education department that what the CEAD was doing was part of the directorate’s mandate – to reach out to local communities and assist where possible. “The project is part of CEAD community engagement obligation.  We worry about challenges that affect our communities. As a way of alleviating the reading problem, MUT devised this reading project. The intervention is based on the research that we did. We are encouraging a culture of reading and contribute to the improvement of our education in the community.”

The event at Mthethweni Primary School was the last phase of the competition. Dr Ighodaro said the other phases of the competition happened at the schools where best performing learners were selected for the last phase. There will be three more competitions in 2024. There are six schools in the MUT project. Dr Ighodaro said the Department of Education provides the necessary support. Present at Mthethweni Primary School were Saloshini Pillay, English Subject Advisor, Umlazi District; and  Bukhosibakhe Mzolo, Circuit Manager of Dukumbane Circuit. Both Education officials thanked MUT for its contribution to improving the learners’ level of English. The Principal of the host school, Sibusiso Makhoba, said the major limitation was that “English is only available to our learners while they are school. However, we think the intervention by MUT is going to have an impact on our learners’ level of English”.