“The vision of the Heaven-on-Earth Project is to see South Africa change through the impact of educated and loved children.”
How it all started
As part of his career, Campher Serfontein spent three and a half years in Indonesia working as Senior Adviser with the Indonesian Tax Administration. During his time in Jakarta he received a God-inspired vision and upon returning to South Africa in 2010, the calling from our Almighty God was clear: the only way the circumstances in our country can be changed, is through the 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 on a farm in the Sir Lowry’s Pass area. He looked out over the valleys to the almost forgotten settlement and he knew that it was right there, in this former slave colony of the 1830’s, that he is called to start building God’s kingdom through education, care and love for the children.
Up until today the people of Sir Lowry’s Pass face many obstacles and challenges. Illiteracy, alcoholism, drug abuse and HIV/AIDS lead to huge unemployment and inevitably filters through to 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 and the Heaven-on-Earth Project was launched under his leadership. A reading program involving 15 learners at Sir Lowry’s Pass Primary School, took off in 2010.
Growth of the Project
The impact which this reading program had on the 15 learners’ progress, was impressive – to such an extent that the school wanted all their young learners to be offered the same. The vision arose not only to improve the learners’ reading abilities, but also to improve literacy as a whole and to offer numeracy skills as part of the program.
As Campher was standing on the second floor of the school building at the time, looking down onto the school grounds, he pointed out where he believed the Heaven-on-Earth centre should be built. With the approval of the headmaster, Mr Rolan McDonald, 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!
What he started with God on that incredible day, would grow and eventually make a difference to thousands of young learners.
Building costs of such a centre, obviously amounted to a lot of money. However, God kept on providing! It was verified by professionals that the thick layer of concrete which had previously been established where the building was to be erected, was thick enough to serve as a foundation for the building!
Due hereto, costs were drastically reduced and building operations could commence.
After only four months the building was completed and paid in full! What a miracle!!
Up until today, sponsors who initially came on board, still walk hand in hand with the Heaven-on-Earth Project by providing funds.
By January 2014, 600 learners from Grade 1 to Grade 3, received free tuition, two hours a week. Learners were withdrawn from their mainstream classes in 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 program for children at risk. The program 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 Western Cape Educational Department 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 G.J. Joubert Primary in Strand and in July 2015 a Grade R support class was started at Firgrove Primary. With the help of Sunette Erasmus, a qualified remedial therapist, who joined the project in 2014, Heaven-on-Earth now changed over to its own support curriculum, which joined hands with the CAPS system being used in mainstream schools at the time. The pass rate of children on the program at Sir Lowry’s Pass was continuously being 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!
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 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 120 learners who otherwise wouldn’t have had such an opportunity. In this same period, two HOEP-support classes were launched at Firgrove Primary. The total number of learners receiving support grew to an amazing 852!
Early Remedial Intervention Program: Our Workbooks
Through the years of involvement in the different communities, we realised that the Heaven-on-Earth Program is growing specifically towards one core direction: School readiness! Factors such as immense poverty, ignorance, lack of involvement and neglect 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, these factors lead to teachers having to devote a great deal of their time to prepare grade 1 learners for school. Backlogs eventually escalate and result in learners leaving school at a very young age.
HOEP launched its Early Remedial Intervention Program to assist crèches and preschools in putting their learners in the starting blocks for successful school careers, while spreading God’s love and serving the communities at the same time.
An exciting new chapter started for the project in 2017 when we developed and tested our own learning material! A unique series of age-appropriate workbooks, as well as Teacher’s guides for weekly intervention sessions for pre-grade R and grade R learners, were introduced. Our weekly 2-hour intervention-sessions cover Perceptual skills, Language- and Life skills and Mathematical skills. Throughout the program the learners are stimulated on concrete, semi-abstract and abstract levels.
Early Remedial Intervention Program: Our Videos
2020 Saw the beginning of yet another energising chapter for HOEP: taking our program digital! Apart from supporting the learners and assisting educators, we now also empower the parents! Our own YouTube channel provides step-by-step guidance to parents, who play such an important and special role in the process towards school readiness. The videos also provide teachers outside our immediate area access to the program.
Through the years the Heaven-on-Earth Project has been blessed incredibly by being carried financially by corporate company sponsors and individuals who opened their hearts to it. We currently look forward to wonderful prospects, where we can contribute even more towards preparing children for formal schooling and academic achievements, through the involvement of more corporate companies by utilising the BEE-structures being created for HOEP.