South Africa

The nation of South Africa continues to suffer deeply from its history of apartheid. The legacy of apartheid is clearly illustrated by the formal education statistics published in 1995 – one year after the new democratic government was established. At that time, 19% of the population had no formal education at all. Within this group, black Africans accounted for a staggering 92% of the illiterate (Asmal & James, 2002). Despite the myriad of social gains achieved since 1994, literacy rates remain very low. Based on the PIRLS (2006) report of basic literacy skills, no students in the world are in greater need of improved educational methods than those living in South Africa, where 4th and 5th grade learners posted the lowest reading scores in the study of 40 countries. Consequently, this project will initially target the assessment of ELLs living in the townships of South Africa. In the last decade, illiteracy rates have increased most in the Eastern Cape (Aitchison & Harley, 2006). The Eastern Cape is the second largest province in South Africa with a population of 6.9 million. Based on the average provincial rankings corresponding to 14 indicators of poverty, it is considered the poorest of the country’s nine provinces (Department of Education Report, 2006).

PEER International has been collaborating with educators working in the Eastern Cape townships of South Africa since 2004. Our schools receive roughly $9 per student funding from the government each year. As a result, our schools lack basic supplies like paper, pencils, books, electricity, soap, and toilet paper. Meanwhile, it is estimated that 10-15% of the student population is infected with the HIV/AIDS virus while another 5-10% of our learners have been orphaned by the disease. These young children are often left to fend for themselves in communities plagued by disease, hunger, and violence where the unemployment rate hovers around 80%. While many factors predispose people to infection, lack of education seems to be among the most significant. Similar to the effects in relation to poverty reduction, there is a positive correlation between the level of educational attainment and HIV infection, such that vulnerability declines with years of education (Coombe & Kelly, 2001).  

The initial PEER pilot schools included Sapphire Road, Cebelihle, and Funimfundo Primary Schools. The evolution of this product has resulted in the development and evaluation of PEER’s English PEER Phonics Fluency program, which was later translated by partner teachers into the Afrikaans language. In order to evaluate the effectiveness of these materials, PEER partnered with PROED International Publishing company and our South African partners to translate the English version of the Test of Silent Contextual Reading Fluency (TOSCRF) into the Afrikaans language. We then evaluated the sensitivity and validity of these assessments to detect beginning reading development across the first (Afrikaans) and second (English) languages of certain subsets of learners. The results suggest that the English and Afrikaans versions of the PEER Phonics Fluency program can be used to rapidly accelerate reading acquisition – especially in the first language among older learners. These materials continue to be used in the townships of South Africa and have taught over 30,000 students to read in English and Afrikaans. See the video of one of our principals describing the impact of the training and materials at his school in a township of Port Elizabeth.

In 2007, the South African Ministry of Education endorsed PEER as a promising approach to solving the problems facing the educational system.

We have partnered with the following schools:

Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Sapphire Road Primary School – Principal Bruce Damons

• In 2008, Bruce received the national award for excellence in primary school leadership

Cebelihle Primary School – Principal Sipho Matyolo

Charles Duna Primary School – Principal Nomulelo Sume

Noninzi Luzipho Primary School – Principal Dan Mavikela

Jarvis Gqamlan Primary School – Principal Mandisi Mvembeli

Jubilee Park Primary School – Principal Lorna Bosman

Loyiso High School – Principal Lulama Hopa

Funimfundo Primary School – Deputy Principal Wanga Sihlali

Johannesburg, South Africa

Newberry Park Centre, Johannesburg – Director Juliet Newberry

“Good people, you’ve completely changed the face of English period from the beast it used to be to beauty and pleasure. Just imagine if this kind of training could continue for a few more years allowing [the PEER team] to monitor us... as well as transforming us into Teacher Trainers.”

Vuvu Dubula - Principal

Funimfundo Primary School

“...we are ten years into our new democracy, but the legacy of Apartheid will remain with us for many years. It will be through programmes like PEER that we will be able to ‘liberate our minds from the bondages of mental inferiority.’ The impact has been profound.”

Bruce Damons - Principal

Sapphire Road Primary School

(For entire letter, click here.)

Seattle Indian Health Bureau

Seattle Indian Health Bureau’s Youth Education Services works with Seattle Public School Native students to reduce absenteeism and to increase academic performance. PEER is supporting the use of the online programs Headsprout Early Reading and Headsprout Reading Comprehension in addition to assisting with internet access. 

Italy and Brazil

PEER International is working with graduate students to translate and user-test the Learn to Reason with TAPS program. We plan to complete the design and development of these programs, implement, and evaluate by the 2019 school year.

Leaders and Thinkers, Denton, Texas

PEER is leading an afterschool program for middle school students attending a school where nearly 43% percent of its families are considered low income. This program is addressing study skills, teaching habits to develop executive functioning, and building thinking and reasoning repertoires.

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