Aloicius Marks was studying towards a Degree in Business Administration, at the University of the Free State, when life presented him with an opportunity to make a difference in his home town. The impact has been so huge that his dream is now to study to become a teacher. Having found his passion, he wants to keep on making a difference to the children he works with; and especially those in his community.
He believes that to effectively tackle illiteracy at schools and elevate pupil’s ability to achieve grade-appropriate levels, a multi-faceted approach is required. “The largest challenge we have is that children enter the school system already behind the benchmark of reading development. We need to help them by using a range of tools available to us. This is so that they don’t need to spend their school careers – and their lives, playing catch-up,” said Aloicius Marks.
Aloicius is a reading assistant at St Johns Primary School, the very same school that he attended as a child, in small town of De Aar. He works with Grade 3 learners, helping them to improve their reading and language development, an essential support role for which the school’s teachers are very grateful. In addition to this, he implements a spelling and phonic programme, with the Grade 4’s, all of which forms part of De Aar Solar Power’s foundation phase education programme, which is a collaborative programme, implemented with the Northern Cape Department of Education. The programme addresses key issues relating to teacher education, which is supported by trained reading assistants and a dynamic spelling programme, all aimed at addressing the challenges that face foundation phase learners.
Aloicius points out that the challenges facing pupils are exacerbated by large classes of over 40. “The classes are the fullest this year and the children are the most behind,” added Aloicius, who has been working at the school since 2015. He says that this is why the school’s reading assistants play such an important role, as the teachers cannot give learners the help they need to get up to speed. Despite these challenges, he expects that this year will be extremely rewarding, predicting that by September he’ll be able to see how much the learners have improved.
He is motivated by the progress that the children make in their reading and spelling and is particularly fond of the Spellit Programme that the Grade 4’s respond so well to. “The learners love the Spellit programme and have a lot of fun while they learn,” adds Aloicius.
He has many strings to his bow, which includes getting the children involved in Nalibali, for the reading clubs and encouraging them to use the material at home.
“For ‘Read Aloud Day’ we got the children to choose a story from Nalibali; they had a great time choosing and this encouraged them not to be so nervous about reading out loud in front of their classmates. We also work to get the parents involved, especially through our reading clubs,” he explained.
“I think that reading is really a fundamental life skill, if you can’t read, you can’t do much. These children really need the help, and I want to support them in their lives. I want to open up more opportunities for them and give them a strong foundation,” concluded Aloicius.
Just over three million South Africans remain illiterate, according to Statistics South Africa, with the main challenge being to ensure that all children re reading at the level of their age at all grades, especially in the foundation and intermediate phases. It must also be considered that poor school performance reinforces social inequality.
Most South African pupils cannot read, write and compute at grade-appropriate levels, with large proportions being functionally illiterate and innumerate. As far as educational outcomes, South Africa has the worst education system of all middle-income countries that participate in cross-national assessments of educational achievement.