‘Enabling Rhodes Support-Staff to Support their Children’


ECD and Senior Phase Intervention 2020

Problem to be addressed

Few children of the support staff at Rhodes University gain access to and graduate from Rhodes University. This relates to the contextual problem that their children attend dysfunctional schools. Because Rhodes University is committed to revitalising public education inGrahamstown, it is appropriate for it to place a particular emphasis on the children of its employees. Rhodes is an institution of Higher Learning and therefore it is should take a particular interest in the education development and advancement of the children of its employees. 

Other elements of the university’s intervention will target schools, but this element recognises that the home is a key site of education and study. Specifically, it asserts that the way in which parents manage their homes has a significant impact on the educational development of their children. Other things being equal, a home that is managed appropriately delivers good educational outcomes, whereas a home that is mismanaged produces poor educational outcomes. This understanding constitutes the rationale for the Rhodes University Parent Education Programme.

Once the university has established the effectiveness of the programme, it could well be developed into a ‘condition of employment’ and be utilised by the university to attract and retain a loyal workforce. It could constitute strong evidence that Rhodes is a progressive and caring employer. In other words, there are a range of potential benefits.

Through the Vice-Chancellor's initiative, now 4 years old, the Community Engagement Division established the Parent Engagement Program. The objective of the program is to work with Rhodes University staff (Grades 1-5) in order to improve their children's access to higher education.   Through literacy support in the early childhood space and tutoring and mentoring at the top end of schooling  (Grade 11s and 12), the children of Rhodes University staff are assisted in improving their literacy levels and their school performance to a level where they can achieve a bachelors pass in their matric exams thereby allowing them the opportunity to study at Rhodes University. In doing so, otherwise inaccessible and prohibitively expensive tertiary education may be opened for them.

This initiative offers an invaluable opportunity to pioneer strategies for bringing Rhodes staff and their families, Rhodes students and, community partners together to build a network of support to keep the children of Rhodes staff on the path to high school graduation, university or advanced training, and successful lives beyond.

A final introductory remark is that the proposal builds on pilot work undertaken by Community Engagement with employees with children in primary school and high school. In 2015 Rhodes University Community Engagement (RUCE) piloted a very successful ‘Intsomi’ literacy project for 24 support staff, whilst relations of cooperation with Ikamva Youth were established several years ago to support staff with high school children. In 2019, RUCE was focused on supporting and improving parental engagement in the education of children in Grade 11 and 12. RUCE did this through identifying the features of interventions that are most effective in supporting parental engagement and improving children’s outcomes at school. The proposed work recognises and seeks to build upon these foundations.




  • Parents manage their homes for good educational results, in particular they promote literacy, personal planning and the adherence to study plans, they take an active interest in the educational progress of their children and they promote the usage of English in their homes.
  • 100% of Grade 12 whose parents participate in the programme pass, and at least 60% of these learners obtain a Bachelor Level pass, 50% of learners are accepted into Rhodes or another tertiary institution and 20% are accepted into GMS with a view to being able to qualify for Rhodes the following year.
  • Parents will co-manage the support programme for their children helping to organise where they can e.g. parent volunteers with make lunch (sandwiches) for the pupils on Saturday for tutorial sessions
  • 90% Parent attendance at the culmination career day and university application process
  • 50% of parents will become computer literate which enable the parents to help their children with assignments
  • Over 40 staff at Rhodes will have access to specially designed literacy packs that they take home to read with their children (0-9 years) thus ensuring a print rich environment at home, always having a fresh supply of beautifully illustrated books in three languages.
  • Improved fine and gross motor skills, pre-literacy skills, school readiness for 5 and 6 years olds in the programme – measured through a pre-and post- locally designed occupational therapy developmental checklist



  1. ECD intervention: Intsomi Reading Programme targeting parents with children in the ECD phase
  2. Senior Phase intervention: Targeting parents and their children in Grade 11 and 12

This segment of the programme will have four parts, namely parent support, full cohort learner support, selected learner support and monitoring and evaluation. It has been designed as a package with the potential to deliver the stipulated outcomes. For this reason, there will need to be discussion with participant parents about ‘the rules of participation’. In order for the package to work, parents (and their children) will have to participate consistently in each of the parts.

Through this initiative, RUCE will support staff members and their children in a planning process through which stakeholders worked together to create action plans to guide their initiatives’ implementation. The planning process adopts an outcome-focused approach with the aim of designing family engagement strategies that would remove obstacles and build stronger connections between the staff and their children.  The planning process involves both the parent and learner to ensure they are invested in the initiative, and empowered parents and learners to take an active role in planning so that the strategies would address families’ actual wants and needs. Each of the parts of this section are described below.

Parent Support

The parental support revolved around a series of workshops during the course of the year. In term one we organise strategic meetings with the parents involved in this program so that we can discuss program goals. From past experiences, the parents have requested support in the form of computer literacy classes, understanding the importance of literacy, career guidance information, communications and conflict resolution training, accessing information to support pupils etc.  A minimum of four workshops a year are held for each group.  

Research shows that family engagement in education is directly related to a range of benefits for students, including improved school readiness, higher academic achievement, better social skills and behavior, and increased likelihood of high school graduation. In particular, students from low-income families, who often live in under-resourced areas, benefit when an array of integrated school and community supports are available to help families support their children’s learning and development from birth to young adulthood. Therefore, these workshops were implemented with the objective of helping the staff members support their children’s learning.


Learner Support

ECD Phase Intervention:  Rhodes Volunteers are trained to support the Grade R pupils with a carefully planned pre-literacy support programme.  Each volunteer works with 5 - 6 pupils offering 15 carefully planned sessions throughout the year.   ECD Practitioners are encouraged to participate to ensure the extension of the programme and better results.

Senior Phase Intervention: To truly have an impact on high school success, family engagement efforts need to focus on student outcomes and become a core part of school and community efforts promoting graduation and college- and career-readiness. Successful parent engagement efforts also need to be multi-faceted – engaging students, families, and communities in an inclusive process; adapting to the social and cultural contexts of families; and leveraging community resources. With this in mind, RUCE offers Saturday classes for the Grade 11 and 12 learners as part of learner support, where the learners are tutored by Rhodes volunteers.  Parents involve themselves in various ways eg  preparing the lunch for the pupils.  Furthermore, the Grade 12 learners were mentored by student volunteers as part of the Nine Tenths mentoring program, while the program coordinator individually mentored the Grade 11 learners.  There will also be tutoring sessions in the week for pupils, these will be conducted by volunteer Rhodes Staff members which include accounting, maths, physical science, geography and life sciences.

An Autumn School will be organized for 5 days at Rhodes University for the 30 Grade 11 and 12’s in holiday period where teaching, mentoring and self study will take place led by the Co ordinator.

Monitoring and Evaluation

  • ECD Intervention: A pre and post locally designed occupational therapy developmental checklist is done which measures the improved fine and gross motor skills, pre-literacy skills, school readiness for 5 and 6 years olds in the programme.  This is undertaken in February and October. Feedback is given to parents. 
  • Participant parents submit their children’s results to RUCE for capture and analysis. The output of the analysis of the results of the learners is individualised analyses. The key analysis items are: level/ type of pass/ fail (i.e. Bachelor, Diploma, Higher Certificate, 2 Subject Fails, 3 or more subject fails); number of Rhodes University Admission points; areas of strength/ opportunity; areas of weakness/ threat. Feedback is provided to all parents to ensure that they understand the technicalities involved and the precise situation and prospects of their respective children. Furthermore, based on this analysis, the coordinator of the program identified learners who obtained a good Bachelor level pass in June of their Grade 12 year, and thereby secure admission to Rhodes by applying during the Application day as mentioned above.

Senior School Intervention:

Management Plan

RUCE will manage this Programme with a Co-ordinator.   Where expertise for a particular workshop is needed it will be identified and paid for.  Computer literacy will take place in the Social Innovation Hub.  RUCE Director and Programme Co-ordinator will be responsible for the M&E and reports.

Last Modified: Fri, 08 Nov 2019 10:34:28 SAST