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Basic Concepts Expo Day

les osler at bcp expo day

LESLEY Osler, the HCET’s project co-ordinator, recently addressed the first Basic Concepts Programme Expo Day, held at the Cape Town Science Centre on 24 August 2013. She was accompanied by Estelle Jacobs, the HCET’s project manager.

Attended by 40 delegates, the event was hosted by ORT SA-CAPE, and opened by its director, Dr Lydia Abel. It was also addressed by Dr Louis Benjamin, creator of the Basic Concepts Programme, which has been implemented at the HCET for the past eight years.

The day’s events comprised a series of presentations, small group interactive sessions, and a panel discussion aimed at establishing effective support networks for BCP mediators. Among others, participants decided to hold a bi-monthly support group meeting for all BCP mediators at the Cape Town Science Centre. A practitioner zone is also being developed on the Basic Concepts Unlimited website.

ORT SA CAPE is an NGO which seeks to enrich education in impoverished schools and communities in the Western Cape. It is affiliated to ORT SA, which operates in very poor and disadvantaged areas throughout the country. ORT SA, in turn, forms part of World ORT, an international educational NGO established in 1880.

Visit from Tjhabelang

IN JULY 2013, the HCET received a visit from Engela Fourie, project manager of Tjhabelang, an educational project in Bloemfontein from ECD up to Grade 3. Following her visit, she wrote the following letter:

Dear Lesley

Thank you for the opportunity to visit Hantam once again and for explaining your operational plan. You and your team are a great inspiration, and have already played a major role in what Tjhabelang has accomplished up to now.

From our point of view, the visit was extremely fruitful; we now have a much clearer indication of how to proceed.We returned to Bloemfontein inspired but realizing the amount of dedication and hard work that lies ahead  if we want to bring about meaningful change in the Bainsvlei area.

In order to move forward, it is perhaps important for Suné van der Merwe, our principal, to visit the HCET very soon and if possible to stay for a day or more to observe how you implement the Basic Concepts Programme in the classroom context.

I realise the necessity for interventions such as the Basic Concepts Programme and others which you are utilising to enrich and improve the learning experience of our children, and to ensure more permanent change in the community.

Congratulations with what you have achieved; I was truly impressed and overwhelmed by the continuous growth of your project.

Kind regards

Engela Fourie

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome training

HCET teachers with FAS certificatesFive teachers from the Hantam Community Education Trust received FASfacts certificates last week following three days of training in Colesberg by Herschell Barron of FASfacts in Worcester.

From left to right are Roos Pergoo, Vuyokazi Katise, Lettie Martins, Chrissie Swarts (Richmond), Angelina Allers and Hanna Mphemba.

FASfacts is an NGO which aims to educate the general public about the effects of alcohol consumption during pregnancy on unborn babies, as well as the influence of people with FAS on other people and the broader community in general. For more information about FASfacts, see

Science trip to Graaff-Reinet

hcet science trip to graaff-reinet

EARLIER this year, Grade Nines undertook a three-day science trip centred on Graaff-Reinet. Led by Lucien Pienaar and Jan Augustyn, the trip was highly successful, and the group had a great time.

On day one, the group travelled from Colesberg to Graaff-Reinet, viewing fossils and Bushmen paintings on the way. In the afternoon they visited the Valley of Desolation outside Graaff-Reinet, accompanied by guides from the Department of Nature Conservation. That evening they arrived at the Camdeboo Environmental Education Centre, a dedicated educational centre with its own accommodation in the Camdeboo National Park.

The next day, the group went on the Camdeboo Orientation Trail, enjoyed lectures on conservation, the ecology, animals and spoors, went on a spoor hunt, and went on a night game walk to experience night food chains in the wild.

On the last day, the group explored Graaff-Reinet, including visits to the Graaff-Reinet Museum, the Montego dog food factory, and Karoo Taxidermy, a large taxidemy business based in Graaff-Reinet which specialises in preparing trophies for local and foreign hunters. Karoo Taxidermy takes pride in its progressive and responsble practices. For many learners, visiting this modern facility and viewing the dramatic full-size trophies of large animals such as giraffes and elephants was the highlight of the trip.

Iron Man raises funds for the HCET

andrew barnes-webb

ANDREW BARNES-WEBB, an IT specialist based in London, has begun to raise money for the HCET by competing in marathons and endurance events.

His first challenge was the Ironman South Africa triathlon held in Nelson Mandela Bay on Sunday 6 April 2013. More than 2 000 athletes undertook a sea swim of 3,8 kilometres, followed by a 180-kilometre cycle ride and a marathon of 42,2 kilometres. The cut-off time was 17 hours. Andrew completed the event in just under 12 hours. His next challenge was the Edinburgh Marathon on 26 May 2013.

Competing on behalf of a charity is a growing global trend. Andrew has made the HCET, and specifically its Camp for Traumatised Children, his charity for sponsorships from friends and family. The Camp for Traumatised Children is a three-day retreat where children affected by parental alcohol abuse attend therapy sessions and are provided with the psychological tools they need to empower themselves and improve their lives.

Andrew, aged 38, is the son of HCET administrator Clare Barnes-Webb, and grew up on a farm in the Hantam district.

In collaboration with the Canon Collins Trust in the United Kingdom, Andrew has created a fundraising page at Click this link to donate, or to get the latest news about his fundraising campaign.

UPDATE: Andrew’s next race on behalf of the HCET is the Iron Man in Pembrokeshire, Wales, on 8 September 2013.

HCET strategy against FASD

THE HCET’s three-pronged strategy for combating Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) was outlined at a national conference in Cape Town recently.

FASD encompasses a range of mental and physical birth disorders caused by excessive alcohol consumption by pregnant women. It damages many children in disadvantaged communities, especially in rural areas.

A FASD Task Team – previously a FAS working group – has been active in the Western Cape since 2001. Its spreads the message that FASD is 100 per cent irreversible, but also 100 per cent preventable (when pregnant women do not drink). It also promotes the message that pregnant women should not drink at all.

The Task Team held a national conference in Cape Town in September, aimed at exploring practical approaches to FASD interventions. It was attended by Lesley Osler, the HCET’s project co-ordinator, and Estelle Jacobs, its project manager.

Community workshops

Spelling out the HCET’s school-family-community approach, Estelle said FAS formed part of the Life Orientation curriculum for grade 6–9 learners. FAS field workers visited farm workers in their homes and also staged community workshops where both men and women were alerted to the dangers of alcohol abuse by pregnant women.

Learners affected by FASD attended special classes where they received intensive individual attention from trainers utilising specialised techniques, and were allowed to develop at their own pace.

They were eventually steered towards a youth development programme aimed at giving them the skills they needed to enter into employment, and become responsible adults.

HCET contributes to Carnegie 3

THE DEVELOPMENT of previously disadvantaged communities is a lengthy and complex process which could collapse at any point if participants waver in their commitment to any of its aspects, including the deployment of resources.

These were among the main points made by Lesley Osler, the HCET’s project co-ordinator, in a presentation to the conference starting off the third Carnegie inquiry into poverty and inequality in South Africa, held in Cape Town in June 2012.

She was one of four panelists at a session on Early Childhood Development. The others were Chris Desmond (HSRC), David Harris (D G Murray Trust), and Eric Atmore (Centre for Early Childhood Development).

hcet at carnegie 3

Les Osler with the conference director, Prof Francis Wilson.

Presenting lessons drawn from the 23 years of the HCET, Osler said the project began as a pre-school play group aimed at preparing farm workers’ children for Grade 1, based on the assumption that effective engagement with formal education would provide them with the best route out of poverty. This was confirmed by subsequent experience.

The project eventually grew into a multidimensional development programme as it became clear that schooling needed to be amplified by effective parenting, health care and education, and ongoing support for graduates.

Adult literacy classes, general skills training, and the training of teachers at state schools in suport of curriculum reform elsewhere in the region proved to be largely unsuccessful and unsustainable.

Key factors

A careful scrutiny of the trajectories of HCET graduates who had passed through further education and training (FET) or higher education (HE) and started working careers showed that the following factors played a key role in their development, and therefore the success of the project:

  • intensive early childhood education, aimed at preparing children for formal education;
  • support for learners in their homes;
  • high-quality primary and secondary schooling;
  • ongoing coaching and professional development of teachers;
  • community participation in school governance; and
  • sustained support for and mentorship of HCET graduates moving on to FET and HE.

Another important factor, she added, was ‘sustained attention and commitment to personal and professional excellence among project staff’.

Trust plays key role in supporting its graduates

hcet at think tank
A SENIOR HCET manager has highlighted the vital role played by the Trust in guiding its graduates through tertiary education and advanced skills training up to the start of their working careers.

Addressing a think-tank on youth skills development, job creation and unemployment, Estelle Jacobs, the HCET’s project manager, said this was essential in order to help graduates choose a career and deal with unfamiliar challenges and pressures.

The think-tank was organised by the Impumelelo Social Innovations Centre, and held in Cape Town in July. It was attended by education experts, development practitioners and representatives of funding agencies.

Introducing the think-tank, Rhoda Kadalie, Impumelelo’s executive director, said there was cause for great concern about South Africa’s youth. The education system was deteriorating. About three million youths were unemployed, poorly educated and poorly skilled. Impumelelo wanted to hear from organisations which had achieved some success in getting youths into employment, and could therefore provide pointers to how these trends could be reversed.

Estelle said the Trust placed learners in three broad groups. The first comprised learners who were capable of getting good matric passes and advancing to tertiary education or advanced skills training. The Trust took them to Bloemfontein for aptitude tests – which state schools no longer offered – and helped them decide on a field of study. Many of them were given bursaries.

Peer pressure

Following this, their progress was tracked on a monthly basis. ‘So we retain close ties with these students. When they have a problem we encourage them to phone us. Among other things, peer pressure is a major problem for children from the rural areas in particular. We motivate them, support them, counsel them, and try to give them the life skills they did not necessarily get at home.’

The second group comprised children with poor matrics who could not get into an FET college or tertiary institutions. These youths were directed to skills a programme, currently comprising auxiliary social worker course and a one-year hospitality services course at a dedicated Trust facility in Colesberg.

Some Grade 9 graduates were taken on as ECD interns, and sent for formal training. After completing their courses, the Trust sought to place them in other ECD centres.

The third group comprised children with learning barriers, often because of foetal alcohol syndrome and other family problems. Placing them in jobs they were capable of doing required an intimate knowledge of these learners and their abilities. Some did shadow work on farms. Many lacked self-confidence, and needed to be guided and mentored.