Fast-tracking the literacy development in street children: a reading and writing project for street children

Nathanson, R. (2009)


The Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2007 revealed that seventy-seven million children of primary school age are not enrolled in schools. Furthermore, despite continued reforms at the primary level, too many school-going children drop out early or do not reach minimal learning standards. This paper describes a collaborative project between researchers at Stellenbosch University and Georgia State University to raise the literacy levels of street children in a unique school in the Western Cape. Given that traditional scientific models have not been successful in raising literacy levels in South African schools, the project implemented a flexible teaching framework in which instructional decisions were based on careful observation of individual children’s reading and writing behaviours (Clay, 2005; McEneaney, Lose & Schwartz, 2006). It was assumed that the insights gained from working with children who had no prior literacy experiences would benefit other low-performing schools. The literacy levels of grade one children in the street-school were assessed at intervals over a one-year period. The results showed that the children were making good progress and that the rate of literacy learning accelerated. Finding ways to integrate scholarship, practice and community development could build capacity for continuous improvements in literacy standards.

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