“The vision of the Heaven-on-Earth Project is to see South Africa changed through the impact of educated and lovedchildren. “
How it all started
As part of his career, Campher Serfontein spent some years in Indonesia. He experienced there a calling to return to South Africa in 2010 with a God-inspired vision. There was the realisation in his heart that the only way in which to change the circumstances and people in our country, would be through educational support of the next generation of people.
Back in South Africa he received confirmation of his calling in a wonderful way at an old watermill. He looked out over to where the almost forgotten settlement called Sir Lowry’s Pass was situated, and he knew immediately that it was here, in this former slave colony of the 1830’s, where our Father calls him to start building His kingdom through education, care and love for the children.
Up until today the people of Sir Lowry’s Pass, as do many other communities in our country, face many obstacles and challenges. A low level of literacy, alcoholism, drug abuse and HIV/AIDS lead to a huge unemployment rate and this inevitably affects the children: The literacy level, as measured by the Department of Education in 2010, was only 7%. Furthermore only 50% of learners who started grade 1, registered for high school education and of these, only 3% completed their matric!
These shocking figures made Campher even more determined to make a difference: The Heaven-on-Earth Project was launched under his leadership. As the main initiative of the Community Empowerment Project (CEP Trust), a reading programme involving 15 learners at Sir Lowry’s Pass Primary School, took flight.
Growth of the Project
The impact which this reading programme had on the 15 learners’ progress, was impressive – to such an extent that the school wanted their young learners to be offered the same. The dream not only developed to improve the learners’ reading abilities, but also to improve literacy as a whole, and to offer numeracy as part of the programme.
One day, while Campher was standing on the second floor of the school building looking down onto the school grounds, he pointed out to where he believed the Heaven-on-Earth centre should be built. With the approval of Mr. McDonald, headmaster at the time, Campher took another leap of faith. He started negotiating with people, got sponsors involved and experienced miracles!
Building operations commenced on 1 July 2013, on Campher’s birthday. It was only a few years later, that he could look back and know that what he started with God on that incredible day, would make a difference to thousands of children.
Costs of erecting such a centre, obviously amounted to a lot of money. However, God kept on providing! It was established that the area on which the building was to be erected, a thick layer of cement had previously been thrown just there, on the exact spot. Informed professionals confirmed that the layer was thick enough to serve as a foundation for the building. Due to this, costs were drastically brought down and building operations could commence.
Up until today, sponsors who initially came on board with the Heaven-on-Earth project, still walk hand in hand with it by providing funds. After only four months the building was completed and paid in full!
By January 2014, 600 learners from Grade 1 to Grade 3, received free tuition, two hours a week. Learners were withdrawn from their main stream classes in small groups of ten, to receive tuition in literacy and numeracy. This created the opportunity for individual support, simultaneously lending relief to teachers who were confronted with classes consisting of 40 and more learners per class.
Initially these classes were presented through application of the Open Schools World Wide programme for children at risk. The programme was kindly made available to the Heaven-on-Earth project by the OSWW organisation.
During January 2014 the first Grade R and Grade RR classes were introduced. Children in the 4 to 6-year age group who were not enrolled at any other school or day care centre, were identified and were given the opportunity to attend school readiness classes twice a week.
There was so much joy when these Grade R learners all tested to be school ready at the beginning of their Grade 1 year! The annual Systemic Tests carried out by the WCED on Grade 3, Grade 6 and Grade 9 learners, also indicated that the literacy pass rate for Grade 3 had risen to 33% opposed to the initial 7% and the numeracy pass rate to 41%.
The new school principal, Mr. Charlton de Morney, also experienced the Heaven-on-Earth Project to be a positive form of intervention for his school. Through his support and deliberations with other principals in neighbouring communities, the word had spread very quickly that something special, which had a definitive influence on learners’ performances, was happening in the Foundation Phase at Sir Lowry’s Pass Primary School.
During July 2014, the project was expanded to include Dr. J.G. Joubert Primary in Strand and in July 2015 a Grade R support class started at Firgrove Primary. With the help of remedial therapist, Sunette Erasmus, Heaven-on-Earth now changed over to its own support curriculum which joins hands with the CAPS system currently being used in mainstream schools. The pass rate of children in the programme at Sir Lowry’s Pass, was still monitored and the Systemic Test series once again indicated growth in respect of both literacy and numeracy. The numeracy pass rate for instance, had grown to a wonderful 58% as opposed to 41% in the previous year!
The level of progress at other schools where this programme is involved, will in future also be measured through the Western Cape Department of Education’s Systemic Tests, together with the annual ANA tests.
2016 saw the introduction of a new phase of the project when, through the mediation of Michelle Liedeman, Deputy Head Educational Specialist in Early Childhood Development, the WCED proclaimed their support to the project. Two new Grade R-classes opened its doors at Dr. G.J. Joubert Primary School in Strand, and at Sir Lowry’s Pass Primary, one Grade RR and three Grade R-classes were introduced. These classes now provide the opportunity of school-readiness preparation for 150 learners who otherwise wouldn’t have such an opportunity, having to face yet another year of roaming around in dusty streets. In this same period, a literacy- and numeracy support class opened at Firgrove Primary. The current number of learners now stands at 852!
Remedial Intervention Programmes for Grade RR and R
During years of involvement in previously deprived communities we experienced that factors such as immense poverty, ignorance, lack of involvement and abuse of alcohol and drugs by parents, often lead to children between the ages of 4- to 6-years not receiving any form of preparation for school. We also discovered that children from such communities, that have been put into day-care centres, sometimes are just being taken care of, not receiving and developing the necessary school readiness skills. In already overcrowded grade 1 classrooms, the above leads to teachers having to devote a great deal of their time to prepare children for school. This creates backlogs which eventually result in learners leaving school at a very young age.
Through our Remedial Intervention Programme for grade R and Pre-grade R we endeavour to contribute towards helping where developmental delays may occur before starting with formal schooling.
The Heaven-on-Earth Remedial Intervention Programme and workbooks do not intend to replace any learning material being used in schools or crèches. This curriculum is supplementary and of specific remedial nature. The duration of each lesson is two hours per week and could be slotted in with ease as part of any curriculum.
The Teacher’s Guide has been prepared as a one-pager per lesson and goes hand in hand with the Heaven-on-Earth workbooks. Each lesson includes the development of Perceptual skills, Language- and Life skills and Mathematical skills. Throughout the programme the learners are stimulated on concrete, semi-abstract and abstract levels.
Through the years the Heaven-on-Earth Project has been carried financially by corporate company sponsors and individuals who opened their hearts to it. Recently the Bavarian Government also showed their support by supporting our Training Programme in Grabouw. It is through these people that we currently look forward to wonderful prospects where we can contribute even more towards preparing children for formal schooling and academic achievements.