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Reading Grans build learning platform

Principal Thuli Zuma, of Esiphethwini Sendiza (Hlanganani) Preparatory School in Mount West, is all smiles when she discusses the Reading Grannies programme which is proving such a success at the school.

Reading Grannies sees women from the community volunteer their time and English skills to help teach the children reading, comprehension, pronunciation to enable them get comfortable with the English language.

The readers do this by injecting excitement into the reading of stories by dramatising children’s books, teaching new words and through practical tasks like reading and roleplay. They work with the class teachers in, with isiZulu translation provided where needed.

Principal Thuli Zuma and teacher Sipho Zuma at Esiphethwini Sendiza (Hlanganani) Preparatory School.

The concept was introduced to the school by one of its current teachers, Sipho Zuma. He said he had learnt from his early experience working in factories how important it was to be able to converse in and understand English. He has a passion for reading and the English language. With the support of principal Zuma, the programme was started in 2016.

The Reading Grannies – and no, they don’t actually have to be grannies – come to the school on Mondays from 9am to 10am to read to and interact with kids from Grade R to Grade 3.

Foundation phase

This year the decision was made to focus on the foundation phase (Grades R to 3) so that when the children enter Grade 4 and the official language of instruction changes from isiZulu to English, they are able to read textbooks and understand lessons and questions posed by their teachers. It is official education department policy that from Grade 4 teaching in all subjects, other than languages, is in English.

Zuma, who has been the principal since 2016, but has been involved with the school since 1994, said the concept was working extremely well. She proudly mentioned that the confidence in English was improving.

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“We are very fortunate to have these grannies. We have to make the best use of this resource. The way they bring stories to life through drama, for example, the kids want to learn. They love having the stories read to them.”

The principal also noted that the grannies and sponsors had done a great deal to help maintain the school, brighten up classrooms and donated furniture and teaching materials.

Children read stories to the class. They have been taught the correct way to hold books and must point at specific words to indicate they understand what they have been reading.

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When The Meander Chronicle visited the school we saw how reading; teaching of rhymes; reading lessons, which are not just passive, but in which the children themselves read; the dramatic enactment of stories; spelling and pronunciation can help to improve understanding of the language. The kids are even taught to hold their books the correct way and must point to individual words when reading.


Many pupils attending the school travel some way to get an excellent education opportunity in classes which are not overcrowded and where teachers, clearly, are passionate and committed to the cause. Some are from Mount West, others from farms in the area and further afield, while the majority travel from Bruntville each day.

*If anyone is interested in becoming a Reading Granny for their local school and needs advice and guidance, they should contact MJ Greene by e-mailing her at

Alternatively, in the Balgowan area, Amy Webster the Community Partnership Trust Manager at Michaelhouse is putting together a group for Asithuthuke School. Email


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