Schools eager to join the literacy programme

Fri, 29 July 2011

“Zoe has become confident when reading. She now always volunteers to read aloud in class. When speaking to her she answers confidently and fluently.” - Teacher at Square Hill Primary, Retreat

REPORT 4: help2read - Literacy Support Programme in Cape Town Metropole

The help2read literacy support programme provides training to volunteers who then conduct weekly one-on-one reading sessions with primary school learners. Beginning in March 2010, the programme set out to recruit 160 volunteers to work with 330 learners. They planned to work with 25 schools over a 12 month period. This report covers the period between December 2010 and May 2011. The programme was extended by a further three months to allow help2read to recruit more schools.

Activities and Outcomes

  • In total 348 learners have been assisted through the programme, exceeding the programme’s target of 330. 47 learners joined between December 2010 and May 2011. Since learners entered the programme at different times during the year, some have already completed their 12 months while others are still involved in the programme. There are currently 217 learners in the programme.
  • During the course of the programme, help2read trained 210 community members as potential volunteers. Of these, 132 went on to become volunteers. A further 30 volunteers left the programme during the year. Reasons for volunteers dropping out include a lack of interest in the programme and volunteers finding employment elsewhere.
  • The number of participating schools increased from 16 in November 2010 to 22 in June 2011. Mitchells Plain has the most number of participating schools with eleven, and there are eight and three schools in Khayelitsha and Retreat respectively. Schools are now approaching held2read to initiate the programme instead of help2read having to approach schools. This has been the case for Yomelela Primary and Encotsheni Primary, two schools in Khayelitsha
  • Significant headway was made in recruiting volunteers in Khayelitsha with 68 volunteers joining during April and May 2011. Help2read has actively engaged this community through workshops, consultations with the community on their needs, meetings with circuit managers from the community and through advertising billboards.


The total cost allocated by SASIX was R 232 450. This amount has been paid out in full.

DescriptionTotal BudgetTotal Expenditure
Project Management and administration120, 000120, 000
Volunteer training workshops (refreshments)4, 0004, 282
1 quarterly skills workshop4, 0004, 216
Schools notice-boards500500
Literacy resources12, 50012, 574
Newsletters1, 2001, 028
Volunteer recruitment costs10, 00010, 133
Laptop computers8, 0007, 252
Road travel15, 00014, 904
Learner pre- & post-intervention testing37, 50037, 900
Supervisory/Progress Meetings1, 2501, 250
Volunteer training evaluation500345
Report writing300300
Administration costs17, 70018, 501
TOTAL232, 450233, 185


Help2read’s main challenge has been the volunteer dropout rate after training as well as during the programme. Help2read is working towards having larger groups of volunteers at fewer schools. These efforts aim to increase a sense of accountability among volunteers and create a sense of group camaraderie. Furthermore, these efforts are intended to increase efficiency, lower costs and improve impact at each school.

Monitoring and evaluation

Literacy assessments are conducted at the beginning and end of each intervention. These focus on learners’ knowledge of the alphabet, phonemic awareness, sight word recognition, comprehension levels and fluency. Volunteer provide feedback on learner’s performance quarterly. As some learners are still in the programme, help2read will provide feedback on these learner’s performance and additional programme learnings in their next report. This will provide further information on the programme’s impact.

At the end of each 12 month period, a report is compiled based on a sample of learners from the help2read programme. The report includes learners across the 95 schools involved in the literacy programme and not only from the 22 SASIX-funded schools and provides insight in to how learners have progressed overall. As the 95 schools all follow the same programme, this report should fairly reflect the progress at the SASIX schools. The following findings emerged from the report:

  • Grade 3 and 4 learners showed the best improvement in reading levels compared to other grades. Initial assessments showed that none of the Grade 3 learners was reading at the required level. Within an average period of seven months, 67.5% of Grade 3 readers were reading at or above their grade level.
  • Although Grade 1 and 2 learners improved in letter name knowledge, phonetics and sight words, improvements in their reading level was minimal. This could be due to their low level of pre-literacy skills at the outset of the programme. The help2read intervention has however provided essential building blocks for their future reading capability.
  • Little improvement was seen in the older primary school learners most of whom began at a very low reading rate. Improvement rates were 8.3% and 10.2% for Grade 5 and 6 learners respectively. The lack of a solid reading foundation has had influence on these rates


The help2read literacy programme continues to grow within Cape Town communities, especially in Khayelitsha. Despite some initial challenges in Khayelitsha, help2read has engaged the community and ultimate established itself as a genuine stakeholder. Feedback from volunteers and teachers cites improved confidence and literacy skills among learners and this reflects positively on the organisation’s efforts and impact.

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