School Readiness & Inclusion programmes working together

Sipho son of Nompumelelo joined Siyakwazi in April 2022. Sipho lives in Dumezulu area which forms part of kwaXolo tribal authority. Sipho was first identified by Siyakwazi’s School Readiness programme in 2021 where he was attending Grade R at a local Primary School. Unfortunately the school did not have the correct parent information on hand and Siyakwazi was unable to make contact with the mother to support intervention. 

In 2022 Fikelephi, the Siyasiza (field worker) supporting the school, was able to make contact with the mother. At the time the most urgent concerns were that he was having seizures. Through Siyakwazi’s referral process, Nompumelelo was able to take her son for an assessment at the local clinic and receive medication. 

One of the other areas where Sipho experienced challenges was with delayed speech as well as struggling to communicate. Access to termly therapy support with Siyakwazi’s Occupational Therapist (OT) and Speech and Language Therapist (SALT) created a therapy programme which could be used by the mother in the homes as well as Fikelephi in the classroom. Activities in the therapy programme included fine motor development like tracing shapes and touching finger to thumb to support pre-writing skills as well as more story time with engaging questions about the story so that Sipho has an opportunity to contribute with answers. 

In the classroom Sipho participated in the Catch-up programme, during the small break-away sessions Fikilephi ensures that he is seated close by so that he can concentrate on the instructions, she comments “The small groups help boost his confidence and his pronunciation of words is improving. I can see that he is able to understand what I am asking him to do and if he is unsure I can encourage him.” 

Before meeting with Siyakwazi, Sipho’s mother did not have support. Nompumelelo did not know what to do. People felt sorry for her and were always saying she must not stress, Sipho will be able to speak one day.  “Angifuni ukuqamba amanga kwakubuhlungu; I did feel hurt”. Sipho’s mother had to think for Sipho and make sure she was always standing in front of him when talking to him since he could not talk but rather he would point to things. For example, if he was hungry he would point out what he wanted to eat. “Ngibonile ukuthi ngi strong ngikwazile ukuzimela ngigedwa kukubi umntwana egula; I realised that I am strong since I managed to care for my child through tough times on my own.”

Apart from not knowing where to go before meeting Siyakwazi Nompumelelo says, it was not that hard accepting that her child needs help. Sipho’s mother has been exposed to people with disabilities, there are people in her family and community with disabilities, that made it easier for her to accept that her child was experiencing difficulties.  

Siyakwazi’s Inclusion Tool assessment completed with Sipho in July and again in November revealed an average of 14% improvement across all developmental areas. Most notably was the improvement in language and communication which improved from 50% to 70% as well as his cognitive and maths which improved from 50% to 66%. In 2023, Sipho will be repeating Grade 1 at his local Primary School. However, the hope is that as he continues to develop in his milestones he will be able to continue in a mainstream education system. 

 “I would like to tell a person who has a child with a disability to try and be strong even though maybe some people will talk about you. I would also advise the parent to go to local clinic. If she does not get help then I would give her Siyakwazi’s number ngoba ila nami engasizakala khona; I received help from Siyakwazi. I always say that I am truly grateful and thankful to Siyakwazi. If it was not for Siyakwazi, I do not think my child would be in school today. The Improvement I see on daily basis on my child, I do not think it would have been there without Siyakwazi. Thank you.”

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