Category Archives: Parenting

This Valentine’s Day, Say #IDONT To Child Marriage

This Valentine’s Day, Say #IDONT To Child Marriage

What thoughts come to mind when you’re thinking of Valentine’s Day? Your partner’s affection? Chocolate and champagne? The heartwarming feeling of knowing that your child is secretly crafting you a card?

Perhaps you choose not to celebrate Valentine’s Day, and that is all right. It is our human right – freedom of thought and expression.

Imagine yourself forced into marrying a stranger, brutally removed from your home with no right to further your studies or earn money, forced into home labour, having children and being beaten up for the smallest mistakes – even forced into prostitution. Unable to voice your pain, having no one to listen to you.

Millions of children around the world are forced into such a marriage, against their will and without the slightest knowledge of how it will shape their future – how their lives, their physical and emotional wellbeing will be affected.

Child marriage is a human rights violation. Although the law is against it, this practice – often seen as a tradition – is widespread in rural and impoverished communities, where gender inequality is prevalent. In developing countries, one in nine girls is married under the age of 15. Unfortunate families and their children become locked in a vicious cycle of poverty that will engulf future generations.

By ending child marriage, these girls will be able to finish school, delay motherhood, find decent jobs, be able to provide for their families, live fulfilled lives and be removed from the cycle of generational poverty – as well as improve the economy.

Ukuthwala is a traditional practice that takes place in South Africa the practice of abducting young girls and forcing them into marriage, often with the consent of their parents. It occurs mainly in rural parts of South Africa – in particular, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. The girls who are involved in this practice are frequently underaged, including some as young as eight.

“If a family has six children and there is a daughter the family cannot support, it is a way of getting rid of her,” said professor Deidre Byrne, chairperson of the Unisa-Africa Development Programme set up to promote girls’ rights.

Although originally this practice was not intended to be an abuse of human rights, throughout the years and perhaps due to poverty, the practice has changed, and girls are no longer given a choice. Financial reasons can force the girl’s parents to accept the marriage; on the other side, the girl is often rejected by her own family if she tries to escape.

More than 91,000 South African girls between the ages of 12 and 17 are reportedly married, divorced, separated, widowed or living with a partner as husband and wife, with the latter forming the majority of the group.(Statistics SA)

Courtesy Buzz SA

A social worker with the Open Door Crisis Centre in Pinetown said that the price for a child bride can be R4,000, which “is a lot of money (if you have nothing)”.

Five little known facts about child marriage

1. Child marriage happens all over the world.

More than 700-million women and girls alive today were married before they turned 18. Although child marriage happens in the U.S. and the U.K. as well, it is most prevalent in developing countries, as one of the main driving forces is poverty.

2. Both boys and girls are married off by their parents, but girls are in much higher demand.

Marrying at such an early age forces both boys and girls into adult responsibilities. They have to drop out of school or are interdicted to attend school. Reaching adulthood, these people will lack the education required to campaign for themselves, being vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. The vicious circle of poverty stretches over yet another generation.

Girls forced into child marriage are at high risk of violence from their spouses, in-laws and even their own family, should they try to run away from an abusive relationship and return home.

3. Child marriage is almost universally banned.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women prohibit child marriage. These treaties have been signed or ratified by most countries, yet there are national and local laws that permit child marriage to take place with only parental consent.

4. Child marriage and teen pregnancy are dangerously linked.

Globally, complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among adolescent girls. Child brides are at very high risk of complications during pregnancy and birth, as their bodies are not mature enough. They often have limited access to medical help. An early pregnancy, often the result of a rape, puts girls at risk of being married off to the father of their baby, whoever he may be.

5. There is a critical need for laws prohibiting child marriage and marital rape, for laws on birth and marriage registration.

Mandatory schooling and gender equality can definitely empower girls. By considering girls equal to boys there will be less motivation to engage in child marriage. Both girls and boys must be educated with regards to their sexual and reproductive health and their human rights. When girls are empowered and can stand up for themselves, they even become advocates in their community.

Perhaps the eradication of extreme poverty is one of the very first steps towards ending child marriages.

Since 2015, UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) has worked to improve global awareness of child marriage, as well as taking action to end child marriage through the #IDONT international campaign on Valentine’s Day.

Join in and say #IDONT to show your support towards the estimated 70-million girls who will be married as children over the next five years, forced to say “I do” and having their human rights violated.

Child marriage – Frequently Asked Questions or contact UNFPA South Africa.

This article was published on Huffington Post SA on 14 February 2018

 

 

Sleigh, #Christmas #Haiku via @PatFurstenberg

Sleigh, a Christmas Haiku

A joyride through snow;

Santa glides across the sky.

A winter’s night dream.

~

Welcome to Christmas Haiku! This December you can enjoy a winter themed haiku each day until Christmas Day. From the 25th of December I will post a super-special series of haiku on a humorous theme. My Christmas prezzie for YOU! Subscribe to my blog (newsletter sign up on the right column or beneath this post) and never miss a haiku with your morning coffee or favorite cuppa! Merry Christmas!

You can enjoy more haiku on this page of my website or in my latest release book, Christmas Haiku:

An inspirational collection of winter and Christmas themed haiku to help you relax.Enjoy a daily haiku paired with gorgeous seasonal images as well as haiku for “The 12 Days of Christmas”

Find it on Amazon worldwide in paperback and eBook: Amazon US, Amazon UK.

Here’s a sneak peek:

Find all my book on Amazon. Enjoy!

He reads Joyful Trouble myBook.to/JoyfulTrouble
He reads Joyful Trouble myBook.to/JoyfulTrouble

I have just finished reading “Joyful Trouble” and I loved it!
Really funny and excellent likeable characters, especially the little brother Tommy. A charming read for those of us who understand the joys and pains of owning dogs.
Well worth a read, you won’t be disappointed. :-)”

Free book preview: Joyful Trouble, As Good as Gold, The Cheetah and the Dog, Belle Cat, Puppy, The Lion and the Dog, The Elephant and the Sheep

Text and Haiku-San © Patricia Furstenberg.

I hope you enjoyed my haiku. Let me know your thoughts in comment below.

Christmas Tree and Saint Nicholas, #Christmas #Tree #Nicholas #gift #shoe #Haiku via @PatFurstenberg

Christmas Tree and Saint Nicholas, two Christmas Haiku

So tall for small child,

Only Dad reaches its top.

Christmas tree promise.

~

6 December holds a special place and my heart, it brings the first thrills of Christmas joy and of small miracles.

You might not know, but in Christian Orthodox tradition 6 December is the day we celebrate Saint Nicholas (Saint Nicholas of Myra, Nicholas of Bari or Nicholas the Wonderworker), who was an early Christian bishop of the ancient Greek city of Myra in Asia Minor (now Demre inTurkey). It is said that he was legendary for his secret gift-giving. Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves, children, brewers, and students.

Saint Nicholas resurrecting the three pickled children. Source wikipedia.
Saint Nicholas resurrecting the three pickled children. Source wikipedia.

How Saint Nicholas became the patron saint of children is quite an astonishing tale. Now remember that all the written records of his life were made on papyrus or parchment, less durable than present day paper, thus had to be re-copied by hand in order to be preserved for future generations. One story speaks of a wicked butcher who, during a dreadful famine, lured three little children into his house, killed them and placed their remains in a barrel to cure, planning to sell them later as ham. Nicholas, who was visiting that region to care for the poor and the hungry, saw right through the butcher’s white fabrications and resurrected the pickled children by making the Sign of the Cross.

Saint Nicholas Haiku

Clean shoes and bright hopes-

Children go to bed smiling.

Mom’s a child at heart.

~

Welcome to Christmas Haiku! This December you can enjoy a winter themed haiku each day until Christmas Day. From the 25th of December I will post a super-special series of haiku on a humorous theme. My Christmas prezzie for YOU! Subscribe to my blog (newsletter sign up on the right column or beneath this post) and never miss a haiku with your morning coffee or favorite cuppa! Merry Christmas!

You can enjoy more haiku on this page of my website or in my brand new haiku book: Christmas Haiku:

An inspirational collection of winter and Christmas themed haiku to help you relax.Enjoy a daily haiku paired with gorgeous seasonal images as well as haiku for “The 12 Days of Christmas”

Find it on Amazon worldwide: Amazon US, Amazon UK.

Here’s a sneak peek:

 

 

You can also read haiku and poems in my book As Good AS Gold:

I‘ve really enjoyed reading this collection of poems. Pat has found just the right voice for the puppy and his adventures. Has been a great comfort to me” (5* Amazon Review)

This is a fine selection of puppy poems” (5* Amazon Review)

As Good As Gold is also available in e-book, paperback and Large Print, colorful pictures, a dyslexia friendly edition:

get it on Amazon UK, Amazon US, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia, Amazon Espana, Amazon Deutschland.

Find all my book on Amazon. Enjoy!

Text and Haiku-San © Patricia Furstenberg.

I hope you enjoyed my haiku. Let me know your thoughts in comment below.

Family, #Christmas #Haiku via @PatFurstenberg

Family, Christmas Haiku

Small hands, wrinkled hands

Share the same crooked smile and nose.

Photo of my heart.

~

Welcome to Christmas Haiku! This December you can enjoy a winter themed haiku each day until Christmas Day. From the 25th of December I will post a super-special series of haiku on a humorous theme. My Christmas prezzie for YOU! Subscribe to my blog (newsletter sign up on the right column or beneath this post) and never miss a haiku with your morning coffee or favorite cuppa! Merry Christmas!

You can enjoy more haiku on this page of my website or in my new book of poetry and haiku, As Good AS Gold:

a lovely poetry book that would be perfect for adults and younger children to share.” (5* Amazon Review)

a beautiful, uplifting and endearing read.” (5* Amazon Review)

As Good As Gold is also available in Large Print, colorful pictures, a dyslexia friendly edition: get it on Amazon UK, Amazon US, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia, Amazon Espana, Amazon Deutschland.

Find all my book on Amazon. Enjoy!

Text and Haiku-San © Patricia Furstenberg.

I hope you enjoyed my haiku. Let me know your thoughts in comment below.

Winter Magic, Kids Snow Stories, Christmas Cheer Books via @PatFurstenberg #giftidea, #kidslit #christmas #winter #snow

Christmas time and winter holidays are the perfect season to curl up with a mug of hot chocolate and marshmallows and a magical book.

Cuddle up with your child and travel together to a magical land where sweet dreams, good friends and snowy adventures!

Little Tail and the Snow: “Imaginative way of bringing nature to life. Makes you think of all those little precious things around us we take for granted every day. Lovely depictions.”

 

 

 

 

Little Tail Meets BlueHow much do you enjoy snow? THAT much? Then you’re just like Little Tail, the adventurous dog who went far and away looking for it. What else will he find in that snowed up, frosty forest?

 

 

 

The Blue Forest: “Excellent! I teach children to speak and read English! They love these books! They are fun and informative as well!”

“You simply have to read about this Winter Wonderland!”

 

 

 

Will Little Tail, the friendly dog with a red tuft at the end of his tail, have another chance to frolic in the snow with his friend? He will have to wait to find out. Daylight casts new shadows over the forest trees and things look different than they were during night time.

 

 

 

  Little Tail might be a small dog by size, but he’s a brave little dog. What else has he discovered up North? Friend or foe? He soon learns that it is better to listen when being spoken to – even if a tiny bird addresses you.

 

 

 

Little Tail has to make a choice and there is a risk that he will be chased out of his cozy burrow and in the heart of winter , if the old rhyme proves to be right. But if he doesn’t offer his help a stranger might perish!

I really enjoyed this book about Little Tail the dog. He is such a great character, who is very kind.
This is a wonderful book to teach children about helping others and friendship.

 

You can read all of these book and more in HAPPY FRIENDS, available in paperback, kindle and LARGE PRINT from Amazon:

“Enid Blyton style.

Happy Friends has everything you want in a children’s book! It will make your child laugh, smile, stoke their imagination and set them on the right track for sweet dreams!
As well as all this, the book shares valuable life lessons, traditional values, installs empathy, and positivity too!
It is a fun yet deep book which I believe every child should own!

All of these books and more are part of the “HAPPY FRIENDS” collection: “Patricia Furstenberg’s collection of twelve stories, Happy Friends, is a classic collection of stories to charm and to teach young readers the value of life and the value of good friends. Each of the twelve stories stands on its own, but each story interacts with the next as the plot thickens. The individual stories become Little Tail’s journey of discovery as he leaves his home and friends, only to discover that Snow might be interesting, but so are his friends back home.

For as “The Book of Life” says, and is often quoted in Happy Friends, “The time spent in the company of friends will, more than once, become part of our most cherished memories, staying with us for the rest of our lives.” Happy Friends is a treasure to be enjoyed and shared over and over again”(Reader’s Favorite Book Review)”

24 Great Experiences To Share With Your Dad This Father’s Day or Birthday #FathersDay #Birthday #MensDay #Dad #parenting #experience #family via @PatFurstenberg

This Father’s Day, choose to spend time with your dad rather than giving him an expensive gift. Shared experiences are much more effective in improving or maintaining positive relationships than material gifts, a study shows, because experiences are “more emotionally evocative”.

Shared experiences have the added value of strong reactions, be it excitement or awe, an adrenaline rush or the bliss of relaxation. So, create some memories to last you a lifetime.


24 Great Experiences and Cool Activities To Share With Your Dad

  1. Cook a meal with your dad, or make him a meal or simply a cup of coffee or tea.
  2. Invite him over and braai together.
  3. Sit down and talk to your dad. Go and have a beer together.
  4. Go and have a haircut with your dad.
  5. Find a live performance to take your dad to and enjoy it together: a live band, a play at the theatre or a stand-up comedy event.
  6. Take him to the park or out to the countryside and enjoy a walk together.
  7. Watch a sports game on TV.
  8. Take your dad to a live sports game.
  9. Go fishing.
  10. Test drive a new car together.
  11. Enjoy an ice-cream with your dad and this time you be the one to buy it.
  12. Write your dad a thank you note or a letter instead of just sending him a text.
  13. Do some gardening with your dad.
  14. Take him on a picnic.
  15. Go and fly a kite together.
  16. Take your dad hiking.
  17. Go and cycle with your dad, or play a game of tennis or any other game you both enjoy.
  18. Play frisbee on the beachor at your local park.
  19. Go camping with your dad for the weekend.
  20. Play a game of putt-putt.
  21. Take a ride with your dad in a steam train.
  22. Take your dad sightseeing in the city.
  23. Go with him to the zoo or a bird park.
  24. Take your dad to a flea market or a Sunday food market and enjoy the experience together.

Father’s Day History

The modern traditions of Father’s Day are easily traceable to the beginning of the 20th century in the United States. The Americans pinpoint the origin of Father’s Day to June 19 1910 in Washington, when Sonora Smart Dodd, while attending a church service in honour of Mother’s Day, decided to honour her father, a Civil War veteran who raised his six children alone after the premature death of his wife.

Of course, the idea could have been sparked by a church service that took place two years earlier, when a congregation from West Virginia honoured 361 men killed in a mine explosion. But it wasn’t until 1966, when the 36th president of the U.S., Lyndon B Johnson, signed an executive order that the third Sunday in June became the official day on which to celebrate Father’s Day. In 1972, President Richard Nixon recognised it officially as a U.S. national holiday.

Catholics have celebrated their fathers since the Middle Ages. Western Christianity has honoured fathers since the 10th century on March 19, the Day of St Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary and legal father of Jesus Christ. It was the Spanish and the Portuguese who brought this celebration to Latin America.

Father’s Day Traditions Around the World

In Germany, Father’s Day is celebrated on Ascension Day (the Thursday 40 days after Easter) and it is also called Gentlemen’s Day, Herrentag. Men over the age of 18 go hiking in groups, pulling a small wagon filled with wine or beer and lots of food. The tradition is probably rooted in 18th-century Christian traditions, when men would be seated in a wooden cart and carried to the central plaza of the village where the father with the largest family would win a prize.

Greece celebrates all fathers on this special day, including those who are divorced. Professor Dr Nicolas Spitalas created the International Movement of Dads. His association, SYGAPA (Men’s and Father’s Dignity), is the biggest movement of this kind in the world with 35,000 members.

In Thailand,it is tradition to give fathers and grandfathers a canna flower as a gift. It is considered a symbol of manhood.

In Mexico, during Father’s Day, Dia del Padre, fathers often participate in a 21km race.

In Japan, fathers receive origami presents made by their children.

In France, Father’s Day, La Fête des Pères, was introduced by a lighter manufacturer in 1949. A national committee would decide which dads deserved the reward, a “Flaminaire” lighter, the most.

(Initially posted on the Huffigton Post SA, 17 June 2018)

A father seen through his child’s eyes:

At 2 – dad can pull silly faces

at 5 – dad can lift me on his shoulders

at 10 – dad can swim the furthest into the ocean

at 20 – dad can buy me red boots

at 30 – dad can cry at my wedding

at 35 – dad is the funniest grandad

at 40 – dad can share amazing memories

at 50 – I wonder what were my father’s dreams?

You might also enjoy reading:

Haiku-San, Father

The Six Principles That Move Mind, Brain, Education #MBE #edchat #techchat #education via @PatFurstenberg

What are the limits of the human brain? How do we learn best? How can we aid and support our children in reaching their full potential as students?

Throughout the centuries, great teachers have been guided by their intuition as to what method of teaching works best. Modern brain imaging techniques have brought into plain view why certain methods work as the workings of the brain has never been as thoroughly demonstrated.  Today we have a clear understanding of which methods work. The latest research in the science of Mind, Brain and Education (MBE) are available to help 21st Century teachers and learners achieve success. MBE is a young science started at Harvard University 25 years ago by uniting the fields of neuroscience, psychology, and education.

Here are the 6 principles MBE is based on:

#1: Each brain is unique and uniquely organized.

Our brains are as unique as our faces or our fingerprints. Although the basic structure and patters of learning remain the same, each brain is unique.

Each human being has unique DNA. Our blueprint is further influenced and shaped by our lifetime experiences, as the age old nature versus nurture argument goes. Even if identical twins share very similar genes (each human being has 24 000), the latest genetic studies prove that their phenotype or physical manifestation will differ as a result of life experiences and epigenetic factors (the way in which environmental factors alter behaviour and development.

Humans share general physical and neurodevelopmental stages (yet not in the same way or at the same rate) that establish the parameters for learning. Since each brain is unique and develops in its own way, students will learn and develop at their own pace. This is why a “one size fits all” method of teaching is ineffective.

#2: All brains are not equal because context and ability influence learning

He has a gift for words, she has a mathematician’s brain, some of us resent change while others welcome it – why is it so? We know that the different stages of brain development impact our comprehension and the development of our skills by influencing our brain’s physiology. Not only are our brains different, but our genetic predisposition, our “abilities” differ. There is no predefined frame for success as a learner.

The human brain is wired for studying and experimenting and is constantly changing.  With the right support, motivation and an appropriate learning environment, a modest background (genetic or not) can be maximized beyond expectation; while individuals born with great potential or under the right circumstances may not reach their potential if they do not live up to it.

An interesting example is that of dyslexia and astronomy. Research shows that dyslexia is the result of an atypical cortical organization. However, the dyslexic brain’s visual field is wired differently, allowing for a wider spatial attention. Because dyslexic students favor the peripheral visual field, with the necessary support and training, they’ll have a greater advantage as astronomers (Schneps, “Dyslexia and Astronomy”, 2007).

#3: The brain is changed by experience

Our genetic codes, the circumstances of our birth and our social experiences make us who we are, each with our own set of strengths and weaknesses.

Since learning is “the acquisition of knowledge or skills through study, experience, or being taught” (Oxford Dictionary), it is impossible for the brain not to learn and change through daily experiences. Previous positive experiences will empower learning, while negative ones will hinder the learning process.

The human brain is not detached from the body during the learning process so the stimuli affecting the human body (taste, smell, touch, sight) will impact upon the brain. A repetitive stimulus will, in time, create a permanent change; more stimuli exciting a wider area of the brain will, in time, strengthen that area. The reverse is also true; the lack of stimulation will, eventually, cause an area to atrophy – How the Brain Works. All these changes are unseen, but the effects thereof are clearly visible.

#4: The brain is highly plastic

Your brain will be different than it was before you read this article in response to your thoughts; your brain constantly prunes and strengthens its neural pathways. This is neuroplasticity, derived from neuron (a nerve cell) and plastic (mouldable). The human brain is most malleable at a young age, yet throughout our lives the brain is capable of neurogenesis (creation of new neurons), reorganizing old pathways and creating new neural connections that improve its capabilities. We can learn at any age, as our brain constantly rewires itself and changes its physical structure (functional plasticity) or recuperates a lost skill, if the usual route is damaged or blocked (structural plasticity).

Neuroplasticity goes beyond, confronting the belief that certain brain areas are responsible for a specific function. Antonio Battro, neuroscientist and educationalist, documents the extraordinary life of a child living with only half a brain in “Half a Brain is Enough: The Story of Nico”. The brain works as a system; when parts of brain are missing other parts take over and learn new functions.

The brain’s plasticity is also associated with the growth mind-set concept: by being told that intelligence is not fixed, but changeable; a group of schoolchildren were able to raise their IQ’s.

Neuroplasticity means that anybody can learn or develop a skill at any stage throughout their life, if context (support, environment, motivation, prior knowledge and enough practice) and ability are present.

#5: The brain connects new information to old

We all thrive to make sense of the world around us, no matter our age. Mouthing is part of normal infant development; teenagers need to belong to a group and as grown-ups confronted with a new situation we felt that the world made no sense – until we found a familiar pattern to relate to. This is part of foundational knowledge, using what we already know from different disciplines to make sense of something knew.

The human brain is designed to find and generate patterns.

Our mind learns and makes sense of experiences by finding old patterns to relate to before creating new ones. Patterns can be a thinking principle, a category, or diagrams. It is much like following directions to an unknown location by looking for familiar landmarks. At the same time, very much like connecting the dots to create an image, the human brain will use the understanding of small details to comprehend the big picture (such as a project, a meaningful story or a history lesson).

By connecting the new information with the old information; new neural connections will appear, that will anchor the new concepts to the already existing ones.

This is why teaching in a vacuum fails. Students need to connect new information to old information in order to understand it.  And the new information that relies on old information can not be absorbed if the old information is missing, or not completely understood.

#6: Attention + Memory = Learning

Our brains are not made to download the information presented to them, but to first analyse it visually, auditory and tacitly.

Our experiences are first lived, then learned.

Attention is needed during the learning process; first to make sense of what is being taught and then to connect new ideas to the existing knowledge by noticing similarities between the two. Yet the information presented to us will compete with the overall stimuli our body is exposed to. At the same time; learning is influenced by our emotional state, as emotions convey meaningfulness to the subject at hand.

When a new concept is being taught; we first commit it to the working memory. After revision, it is stored in the long term memory. Overloading the working memory will reduce the amount of information we can move to long term memory. Practice and meaning are crucial to committing the information to long term memory. Therefore, the way information is presented needs to reduce the cognitive load and facilitate learning.

As our brains are unique; each student will better assimilate the information through a different channel. Using a variety of methods while teaching (reading, videos, debates, discussion, projects, slides, etc.) will benefit a larger number of students, as the input information enters through different neural pathways ensuring a greater possibility of maximizing student learning, often through the overlapping of information.

(Written by Patricia Furstenberg for ITSI_SA – April 2018)

How Mobile Libraries Can Boost Education In South Africa

the key factors to achieve a high literacy level in a country – Patricia Furstenberg

How Mobile Libraries Can Boost Education In South Africa

Some of my most cherished memories involve books. Being read to, excited to hear my father mimicking different characters in the story; later on, thrilled to read on my own. Books, the touch and feel of them. Cradling the book you thoroughly enjoy and that sunken feeling when it’s over.

Most of this world’s amazing people were thirsty readers, drawing inspiration and strength from books. Oscar Wilde, Nelson Mandela, Agatha Christie. What would they have become if it wasn’t for the books they were fortunate to read? Where would you be now without the books that made you?

“Be a lifelong student, read as many books as possible.” Nelson Mandela

For us, books are within easy access; a library down the road or at school, online book retailers or the mall’s bookshop and second hand bookshops. We’re lucky, although we probably take it for granted, to have been brought up in a culture of reading. Because reading is linked to academic achievement, emotional intelligence and self-esteem.

South African learners still have limited access to libraries

And the two main reasons are: lack of infrastructure and the bad management of funds.

My previous article: “Does school attendance guarantee literacy?” concluded that access to reading material from an early age, together with school attendance and government funds for learners are key factors in attaining a high literacy level in a country.

There aren’t enough libraries

Learners in primary schools with a library fulfilling minimum standards (which can be as little as a box of books in one classroom, as decided by the South African Department of Basic Education):

Provinces ranked according to schools supplied with a library, with one being the highest extent and nine the lowest extent:

The 2009 UNICEF report stated that 53 percent of SA learners were in non-fee schools, completely dependent on funds from the government. The funds are allocated per learner, depending on the poverty of the area around the school and are amended annually.

Schools that have acquired the full set of funds, by province:

Schools that have acquired the full set of funds by province

Where do we stand, worldwide? The World’s Most Literate Nations (WMLN) ranks countries on their populace’s literate behaviours and their supporting resources. They use five categories as indicators of the literate health of nations: libraries, newspapers, education inputs and outputs, computer availability. “This multidimensional approach to literacy speaks to the social, economic, and governmental powers of nations around the globe.” On Libraries ranking South Africa scored 51.5, with position one as best and 61 last.

To paraphrase Francis Bacon, if children can’t have access to books, then let the books come to the children.

Clever Solutions

1. Mobile libraries and librarians

This is exactly what SAPESI (South African Primary Education Support Initiative) does. With the support of the SAPESI Japan offices they source and export mobile libraries (MBs) to SA. These facilities are contained in medium-sized busses and will travel around provinces providing poor communities with free access to books and a librarian. Each bus carries 2,500 books in all 11 official languages, catering for children between the ages of six and 11.

Japan, a country with an area three times smaller than South Africa, has 530 MBs. In 2016 South Africa had approximately 50 MBs visiting 885 schools across the country. SAPESI aims to have 100 MBs that will serve 2,500 schools by 2025: at least one in operation in each of the 96 education districts across South Africa. SAPESI hopes that the learners’ families will be encouraged by these efforts and support the children’s reading efforts as “reading is the basis of all learning.”

Since 2008 SAPESI is also supported by Sony companies from Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, United Kingdom and the United States. The total number of English children’s books donated so far is 170,000. Sony Corporation in Tokyo contributed funds to SAPESI in order to purchase a further 13,200 children’s books in languages indigenous to South Africa.

In addition to supplying books Sony also supports the “VAIO Bakkie”, an IT training project using Sony’s VAIO laptop computer, whereby pupils enjoy learning practical computer skills, even at schools without computer facilities.

2. Improvise and reuse refurbished containers

The South African Mobile Library Association (SAMLA) together with EDSA (Education for Democracy in South Africa) have joined forces to bring the knowledge and love of reading, story-telling and drama to townships and squatter camps of the Western Cape. A children’s library has been set up in three refurbished containers in a central location in Gugulethu Township.

3. Wooden mobile bookshelves

Mobile Library Solutions, “Masixhasane”, is another mobile library initiative doing their bit at eradicating illiteracy in SA schools. They build mobile libraries that fit through a door and are ready to use: wooden mobile bookshelves stocked up with books sponsored by worldwide organisations.

Percentage of learners with library access as presented in the 2014 report for basic education:

Provincial indicator values for library access in South Africa as presented in the 2014 report for basic education.

Mobile libraries, early results

In 2014 research done by the University of Free State on schools in the rural areas proved that primary children from schools serviced by mobile libraries showed a significant improvement in their English reading and speaking capabilities.

The use of Mobile Libraries helps on multiple levels, study proves. Patricia Furstenberg

The children were able to converse comfortably with us in English and also read from their library books with ease and comprehension. By contrast, children from some schools that have not had access to the mobile libraries had very little understanding or use of English.” says Dr. Lynette Jacobs, Head of the School of Education Studies.


Sony Group employees send books to children in South Africa.

There are many other organisations supporting the mobile library initiative with the same vital purpose: to instil a love of reading thus improving literacy and overall academic performance of the children of South Africa.

Written for and published on Huffington Post SA on 4 May 2017

You might also like to read:

Does School Attendance Guarantee Literacy?

How To Raise A Child With A High IQ

Left Or Right Brain? How Discovering Your Child’s Learning Style Can Help You Help Them via @PatFurstenberg

Left Or Right Brain? How Discovering Your Child’s Learning Style Can Help You Help Them

Your child is a left-brain; he’s got a logical mind, he understands numbers and sequence, that’s why he’s so good with mathematics and sciences. My daughter is no good at mathematics, but she’s a right-brain, she’s creative and imaginative.

Is it correct to label our children based on common beliefs? Left-brain and right-brain, there is so much more to it than aptitudes towards the science or the arts.

Karl Lashley was the first neuropsychologist to map the human brain, especially those areas of the brain responsible for specific functions and to research the way people study and learn new facts. Based on his initial findings, further studies have established that the left hemisphere is in charge of language (vocabulary), memorizing and recalling, following instructions. The right hemisphere is in charge with visualization, imagining, comparison, as well as comprehension and interpretation.

The right-side, left-side dominance becomes evident from an early age. The older we become, the more evident it is, except that grown-ups also learn to compensate and, if they are lucky, they will choose a career path that aligns with their dominant hemisphere.

On a school level, the situation is different. There is no choice, thinker or dreamer, they are all crammed in the same classroom, following the same curriculum. And the curriculum seems to favour the left-brain students.

Left-brain academic subjects focus on logical thinking, analysis, and accuracy.

Right-brained subjects focus on aesthetics, emotions, and creativity.

Until the day that the education department will embrace and support this natural, dual way of thinking it lies in our hands as parents to support our children.

Often right-brain students will appear as under-achievers as the educational curriculum might not be challenging enough for the way their brain is wired to think.

Mathematics and science require the learning and use of formulas, of a specific sequence of facts. Languages and Social Sciences require students to memorize vocabulary and grammar rules as well as lists of facts and numerous dates. Furthermore, mathematics or maths literacy are listed among the compulsory subjects required for all degrees offered by the Faculty of Law, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, Faculty of Humanities or Faculty of Theology.

Wonderful news for left-brain pupils, but what about the right-brain ones? The dreamers and the thinkers that see the big picture, yet tend to struggle remembering small details? The David Karp (founder of Tumbler), Evan Williams (Blogger creator and former Twitter CEO) or Simon Cowell (Britain’s Got Talent)?

These right-brain dominant students, although just as gifted and as clever as their left-brain fellows, are often seen as under-achievers because they struggle to remember a formula or a historical date. Few right-brain pupils might just be able to expand their natural brain functioning, thus over-compensating the restraints of their brain design — by applying themselves to the extreme.

It is important to understand that a pupil’s cerebral inclination will play a role not only in the type of information he or she is more likely to absorb but also in the way he or she will best absorb that information.

Although left-brain students can absorb the details and the numbers, they might struggle to step back and “get” the big picture. These students may need to know from the beginning what is the end goal, what is expected of them before the study process even begins.

Right-brain pupils benefit from the use of images and colours when studying. Using simple drawings when learning is highly beneficial as it involves their dominant right-brain, the creative hemisphere in the process, thus supporting their left-brain.

Until the day that the education department will embrace and support this natural, dual way of thinking it lies in our hands as parents to understand our children’s hemispheric dominance and distinctive brain wiring and to support them, as all children are gifted and unique, whole individuals.

Curious about your brain dominance? Take the hemispheric dominance test.

This article was first published on the Huffington Post SA on 14 November 2017.

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5 Facts About The Baby’s Brain Parents Must Know via @PatFurstenberg

5 Facts About The Baby’s Brain Parents Must Know

A baby’s arrival is welcomed with excitement and apprehension. We prepare for it by buying tiny clothes, a mountain of nappies, furniture to fill an entire room and the boot of our cars — and this is just the beginning. Between antenatal classes and parenting books, no wonder there isn’t any time left for extra information.

Neuroscientists, with the aid of brain-imaging tools, can study the changes that take place in the human brain when we think, read or learn. Their findings shine a new light on how the human brain actually works and how parents can help enhance their children’s educational experiences and life achievements.

Baby Brain Fact #1: First Three Month Of Life Are Crucial For The Baby’s Brain

Full-term babies

The brain of a newborn baby birthed at full term is only a quarter of the total size of an adult brain. Therefore specialists consider the first three months of life as the fourth trimester of pregnancy. It is during these first three months of the newborn’s life that his brain develops enough for the baby to become mature enough to adapt to his surroundings and to begin to socialise.

When infants are born before full term

Inductions were regarded as highly fashionable between the Eighties and until the end of the 20th century. As soon as a pregnancy reached its 37th week (with 40 weeks being full term), it was considered “close enough” and inductions and C-sections were being scheduled. It was the increased number of babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (ICU) that made obstetricians reconsider the meaning of “term pregnancy“.

Researchers noted that the brains of the infants born at 37 weeks were 5 percent smaller than the average. By the third months of life, the difference between the preterm babies and the full-term babies became smaller, but the preterm babies hadn’t fully caught up — their brain size remaining “2 percent smaller than the average” a neurology study showed.

Newborn baby MRI

Image above: The brain scan on the left is taken from a newborn, and the one on the right is taken 90 days later. Credit: Dominic Holland et al., University of California, San Diego School of Medicine

Baby Brain Fact #2: Talking To A Baby Stimulates Its Brain

Talking to babies and even reading to them helps boost their brain power, researchers say, and the differences begin to show as early as two years of age. Chatting with infants helps them pick up the rhythm and the rules of language, and repetition helps them learn vocabulary.

The same principles apply to using facial expressions to communicate with an infant, as this will help them decipher and understand human emotions. At such a young age the prefrontal cortex (implicated in behaviour and personality expression) is not fully developed, so the fear of “spoiling” an infant by giving them too much attention is unjustified.

Baby Brain Fact #3: The Brain Develops During Our Entire Life

The first birthday is an important milestone for the toddler’s brain as well, as it would have reached 60 percent of its adult size. The circumference of the human head will reach 90 percent of its adult size by the age of six, yet the brain will only be fully matured at the age of 25.

Neuroscientists have discovered that the human brain continues to develop — forming new neural pathways and pruning old, weak ones throughout our lives. Also, due to the brain’s plasticity, if an area of the human brain is lost the remaining brain area will, in time, develop to compensate for the missing sector.

Our genetic package provides the basic blueprint for brain development, but the stimulation an infant and child experiences provide the foundation for future learning.

Baby Brain Fact #4: Lantern vs Flashlight Awareness

Although a baby’s brain has many more neural connections compared to the adult brain, to protect them in a harsh world their brain has less inhibitory neurotransmitters.

As a result, they perceive the main picture, but focus less on details, just like a lantern that illuminates the entire room in a diffuse way. By comparison, the adult brain will focus on details, very much like a flashlight that focuses its light on specific details.

Baby Brain Fact #5: DVDs Out, Experiences In

From birth, babies respond to some stimuli and ignore others. DVDs, flashcards — these leave baby unresponsive. What babies love is human interaction, and later on, first-hand experiences.

Keep in mind that babies get bored quickly, as they have a short attention span, so parents need to vary the games. Also, too much stimulation will soon tire the baby.

Interesting to notice is that babies don’t hear as well as we do, which explains why crying is not bothering them!

Also, babies can’t distinguish voices from background noise as well as adults do — so if you want your infant to pay attention to you, it is advised to switch off the TV.

And music? Yes, babies do love music, but this should be approached as an activity, limited by time and cued to baby’s attention span.

* The information in this article is NOT intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified healthcare professional and is not intended as medical advice.

This article was initially published on Huffington Post SA on 9 May 2018

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