Staff from the Faculty of Education is involved in spearheading a project, named 'Reading, Rugby and Responsibility', a new concept of teaching reading by involving young children, their families and sportsmen/women to coach their sport (rugby) and teach reading using for example big books. Dr Ina Joubert, Dr Nkidi Phatudi, and Ms Donna Hannaway from the Department of Early Childhood Education are contributing their knowledge and experience from an educational perspective, while Mr Morris Gilbert and Mr Pote Huma are representing TuksSport, Dr Jaco Joubert the Department of Sport en Leisure and Ms Francinah Masola, a MEd student, is involved in the project at Sunnyside Primary School.
The idea is to present the learners with role models who, whilst coaching them will teach values such as respect and responsibility and will teach them to read using appropriate reading materials. Parents and the community will be involved to enhance the effectiveness of the teaching process through capacity building activities. It is envisaged that the children will develop a love for reading, improve their reading skills, learn about rugby, develop motor skills and, at the same time, learn values that will benefit the community as a whole.
The background for the project is that UP-Tuks (the High Performance leg of TuksRugby), in 2013 identified the need for a viable community outreach programme as part of its social responsibility and in line with the UP’s Strategic Plan 2025 (“Embedding community engagement and civic commitment in its academic mission”). The initial idea was to reach out to primary schools in the Pretoria CBD, attended almost in total by children from the former disadvantaged communities. To these children, rugby is not a first choice sport activity and this was seen as a fascinating challenge to expose them to not only rugby, but also to literacy and life skills for children in the Foundation Phase.
The project Reading, Rugby and Responsibility is regarded as a pilot project in 2014 to evaluate the concept. The sport chosen to introduce the concept was therefore rugby. A school in the inner-city of Pretoria/Tshwane (as part of the CBD), the Sunnyside Primary School, was identified for the pilot study. Rugby players will introduce ‘tag’ rugby, a type of touch rugby for young players, to Grade 3 learners (approximately 150 learners; both boys and girls) during school hours. A period allocated to Life Skills, especially physical science as sub-category of Life Skills, was used. This period will be made available by the school as they do ‘catch-up’ academic activities in this period. The reason is that they lack capacity to teach physical science to the children. The rugby players will use Big Books and word cards to practice reading skills with the children. The language of the reading materials is English as it is the language of learning and teaching (LoLT) of the school. Although English is the LoLT it is not the home language of most of the learners which is one of the reasons why English reading should be enhanced.
The rugby players receive training by staff members in die Department of Early Childhood Education under the leadership of Dr Ina Joubert.
The training involves the use of the technique of reading aloud, the use of questioning techniques and the expansion of the concept responsibility (including the concept of respect). In future this training will also be offered to parents through capacity building activities after school or on Saturdays. The parents of the children will be invited to be trained as rugby coaches. This will allow the parents to support their children in the playing of rugby and reading processes. The success of the concept was assessed by monitoring the development of the children’s attitude towards reading. The school will assist in assessing the learners and monitoring their development through a story book project where the children wrote about the project.