Holding hands for sustainable change in disadvantaged Educare centres through volunteer teaching
This thesis is a record and analysis of as well as a commentary on an emancipatory.educational action research project in which I participated at three educare centres serving 0 - 6 year old children in Nyanga, Philippi and Old Crossroads of Cape Town, South Africa. The study sprang from my need to examine closely the work I was doing as a volunteer in the hope of maximizing my efforts to bring about sustainable change in these challenging settings. . Ultimately my goal was safe, healthy and stimulating educare. I chose what I perceived to be a few important areas for improvement which reflected both the teachers' prior educare training as offered in several non-governmental organizations in Cape Town as well as ideas which I contributed from my own readings and studies. Room arrangement to ease flow and promote independent, individual learning was one area. Establishing routines in a daily programme that encouraged children to become interested and responsible members of the educare community, that fairly divided teacher tasks and that increased child/teacher interactions was another area for improvement. The thesis includes a discussion in Chapter 3 of emancipatory educational action research as a good vehicle for the work I undertook with all the teachers in each of the three centres. Central to this choice was my participation in change including change within myself as a volunteer in-service field worker. Flexibility in timing, including delays and many repetitions, were a feature of my work with women whose lives of grinding poverty were at the mercy of tragedy and disaster as well as time-consuming tasks making for absenteeism. The main benefit of this form of research was its potential for growth in self-esteem and empowerment in individual teachers as they witnessed the benefits of their planned work multiply at the centres. I divided the work at each centre into three phases. The first included getting to know the centre, its teachers and children and making decisions around what tasks to undertake. In the same phase the teachers and I began to work on the identified areas. In the second phase, I introduced the teachers to teachers at other successful educare centres so that linkages could be established that would strengthen the work we were doing and broaden their base of support. Ultimately, I intended that this would allow me to decrease my presence and input gradually while change continued at the three centres. The third phase involved the teachers at a centre plowing back their new skills into the wider network of Mustadafin Foundation educare centres in which they were involved and which needed similar assistance. I have presented a new understanding for sustainable change resulting from this study and it is my hope that donors and others involved in community upliftment will understand that continued input and follow-up involvement need to accompany material gifts and intensive upgrading. Finally, I have written what I hope is a very readable thesis so that the teachers involved can read their own and each others' stories as I have done my best to record and interpret them.