An exciting new initiative by Puku and the ValueEd learning platform will train teachers on digital skills which are essential to navigating the plethora of internet-enabled technologies that will be native to future learners. The partnership between Puku and ValueEd is set to upskill a cohort of teachers by providing them access to the latest trends and insights in subjects that are beneficial to trainee teachers entering the 21st Century classroom. Courses on social media, emotional intelligence, bullying prevention and many others will be hosted by experienced speakers in real time allowing for authentic engagement with the subject-matters.

Puku as an advocate for literature and literacy in Mother-tongue languages sees this as a natural extension of the mandate to get more children reading. The 2023 Reading Panel Background Report noted that less than 50% of learners at Grade 1 have the required mastery of the alphabet to perform the necessary ‘decoding’ of oral comprehension by phonemic awareness to letter-sound recognition which is a pre-requisite of reading and later comprehension.

Furthermore based on research presented by the DSAC via the National Reading Barometer 2023 and from the National Reading Survey 2016 conducted by the former SA Book Development Council, it was found that whilst 93% of adults surveyed believe that reading to children is essential for improving school performance, only 52% of adults who live with children actually read with them. Puku felt there is a clear need for an intervention to remedy this deficiency at that level through the teaching professionals who society charges with imbuing literacy in our children.

Thus the first cohort of teachers for the inaugural sessions are ECD/Foundation Phase teaching candidates from Rhodes University.

One of the Academic course convenors at Rhodes said “…after the physical workshop Puku held here, the students are now much more aware of the importance of literacy as a way of igniting children’s imagination…children who are often distracted by other less-challenging media on smartphones and games…”

Executive Director of Puku, Elinor Sisulu envisioned a multi-layered approach with the digital upskilling forming an important part of of the journey to improving literacy for children, stating, ” Digital upskilling will have immediate benefits to the teachers who will be teaching learners in the ECD and Foundation phase. They will be more confident with digital tools and will contribute meaningfully to literacy by writing reviews of children’s books. These reviews will then be made available as part of the metadata of Children’s books that Puku catalogues and curates on the Puku website. Puku has been working on children’s book catalogues in mother-tongue languages in order to give – not just teachers- but parents, librarians, resellers and others in the book value chain, quality information on children’s books in a convenient way, through the Puku site and new portal currently in development. The partnership with ValueEd in providing these teachers with a world-class e-learning engagement platform is therefore a significant milestone.”

Puku is working on mother tongue language children’s book catalogues in partnership with the National Library of South Africa, UNISA, Biblionef and IBBY. The 100 recommended books have been identified for isiXhosa and SeTswana. Work on selection of the 100 best books in SeSotho is underway.

Managing Director of ValueEd, Mr Vikela Rankin was pleased to play a role in this innovative approach to tackling SA’s literacy crisis, noting, “ValueEd’s unique offering of course is well suited to teachers who will be going into a learning environment that has tech-savvy learners, kids with tablets and smartphones but also with more access to emotional tool-kits than ever before. Teaching these kids can be tough but it is incredibly rewarding. We at ValueEd pride ourselves in individual engagement with candidates on our platform and have pioneered merit-based learning with recognition from big corporates to SMMEs and individuals who wish to upskill themselves in a variety of skills and knowledge not easily found anywhere else and coached by well-versed individuals of exemplary pedigree.”

The Puku and ValueEd sessions for Teachers go live today 25th March, 2024 with more Universities, NGOs, SMME’s and self-employed individuals aiming to participate going forward.

More information on registration is available here