On 16 and 17 FebrSymposiumuary I attended the Western Cape After School Game Changer Symposium, organised by the Western Cape Government and The Learning Trust. The conference focused on after-school programmes and how to make them more effective.

FunDza is participating in of one of the WCED’s after-school projects, YEBO (Year Beyond), providing English language content for the after school programme. In addition, we support numerous other after-school groups with books and ideas on how to encourage reading for pleasure and reading for meaning.

However we ourselves don’t actually run these after-school programmes, which means that I hadn’t given after-school programmes as much thought as perhaps I should have!

I realised this in the many fascinating presentations at the conference. I was very interested in two speakers from America: Lucy Friedman from an organisation called Expanded Education, and Ramon Gonzalez, a principal from a New York inner-city school. They spoke about how after-school programmes in New York aim to fill the ‘opportunity gap’: American children from poor backgrounds get access to the kinds of extra-mural classes, extra lessons and outings that middle-class children take for granted.

We also heard from many successful projects in Cape Town, and there were many discussion groups. Two that interested me were how to use elearning as a tool in various programmes, and how to monitor and evaluate processes and outcomes effectively. A major finding, and one that was continuously emphasised, was that after-school interventions work best when they are integrated into the whole school programme, rather than being seen as an ‘add-on’. Angus Duffet, principal of Silikamva High School in Hout Bay, described their impressive programme that draws on partnerships with NGOs in the area.

I gave a very short presentation in a session on motivation, though in my case I was talking about how we motivate our readers to read and stay reading, whereas others were focusing on how to motivate young people to attend the programmes and keep attending. Hopefully there were some insights to be gained from our different experiences.

As usual, the networking and informal chatting was as valuable as the formal presentations and workshops. I saw many FunDza beneficiaries there, such as the crew from Ikamva Youth, Sean from SAEP, and Siviwe from Ikamva Labantwana Bethu. Another beneficiary, Kristen from Numeric, a maths NGO, told me how she used our stories at the end of the sessions to keep their learners coming back for more!

Food was mentioned more than once as an important part of any South African extra-mural programme, and the delicious food was certainly a feature of this conference!

Hopefully the energy that was generated in discussions and workshops will have impact on the ground, and help to develop this sector that can play a crucial role in our young people’s wider education.