Keep your kids entertained with these 5 fun holiday crafts

Keep your kids entertained with these 5 fun holiday craftsThe December holidays are almost here, which means your children are most likely already looking forward to summery days at home without any homework to do. But how will you keep them entertained over the festive season? Why not keep them busy and creative at the same time? These fun and easy crafts are a good place to start:
1. Pretty paper tulips
These colourful paper tulips are very easy to make, and will add a beautiful pop of colour to any room. All you need is colourful sheets of paper, glue, paper straws, a hole punch and scissors. Why not use the tulips as table decorations? Simply ‘plant’ the flowers – individually or together – in flowerpots for a quirky decoration that won’t die or fade in colour.
See how to make the paper tulips here.
2. Fun with shadow puppets
Shadow puppets are not only easy to make, but once they’re done, your children can flex their creativity even further by putting together stories and shows with the puppets.
For a shadow puppet show, you will need a shadow theatre. You can make one from a cardboard box – see how here.
To start your kids off with, they can cut out templates of shadow puppets, available here and here.
Once they have become more confident in their abilities with the shadow puppets, and know what stories they want to tell, your children can design and cut out their own shadow puppets.
3. Colourful macaroni necklaces
Once the macaroni has been dyed, making these colourful macaroni necklaces can keep the kids busy without too much supervision – they simply need to thread the macaroni bits through strings or ribbons. You can include different shapes of pasta for variation. If you’re setting up a Christmas tree for the holidays, the children can thread longer strings to decorate the tree with.
See the complete guide to this project here.
4. Colourful ladybug rocks
These cute ladybug rocks are very easy to make, and will add a quirky touch to your garden and outdoor areas. The ladybugs can even be used as paper weights or add charm and character to your table setting if you incorporate them into the decorations. Place them on windowsills for a colourful, cheerful surprise.
See how to make the ladybug rocks here.
5. Mess-free tie-dye scarfs
This really fun and easy project can keep the kids creative and busy for hours on end, and is not as messy as traditional tie-dyeing. The scarfs made can also be given as gifts. You can even take it further – why not try out the technique on napkins and tablecloths? It will add a festive feel to celebrations or mealtimes, and the kids will feel proud of having their creations used for guests or events.
See how to make the project here.


10 activity ideas to keep the kids busy this December holiday

10 activity ideas to keep the kids busy this December holiday

As much as we’re all looking forward to putting our feet up this December vacation, many parents have feelings of trepidation about how they’ll keep the kids busy for the six weeks until the next school year starts.

Fear not! Here are 10 activity ideas that’ll occupy the children for at least some of the time.

1. Let them help with household chores

Kids won’t be fussed with doing chores unless there’s some external motivation involved. Run a competition for the duration of the December break – the child who has completed the most chores over the holiday wins a prize! Your home has never been as tidy this time of year.

2. Let them sort out and donate toys and clothes they aren’t using

Have the kids sort out their rooms, and donate the things they aren’t wearing or using to a worthy organisation. This encourages and fosters a sense of sharing and shared responsibility – something that isn’t just important during the festive season, but all the time.

3. Let them play dress-up

Is there anything more fun than rummaging through mom and dad’s closet and putting on an haute couture fashion show?

4. Put on a play

Have the children write, direct and perform their own play. Invite the neighbours to enjoy the show.

5. Visit the library

Public libraries are wonderful oases of stillness and relaxation, and these institutions often run holiday programmes as well. You’ll be ensuring entertainment that also has an educational slant.

6. Visit an animal shelter

Another way to entertain the kids and give something back is to take them to an animal shelter as volunteers. They’ll be taking a load off of these organisations, which are especially under pressure this time of year, and they’ll have a great time doing it.

7. Let them do festive arts and crafts

Why not keep them busy with festive-themed arts and crafts? Here are some ideas to get you started.

8. Take their art to the streets

Arm them with coloured chalk, and let their creativity loose on the driveway or sidewalk.

9. Have a picnic in the park

Let them pack a picnic basket and head out to your nearest public park for a summers’ day out in nature.

10. Have them learn a new skill

Has your child always wanted to try tennis, swimming or learning a new language, but there’s just never enough time? The December break is a great time to have them explore these interests and bump up on their skills while they’re at it.


Tips for keeping your kids safe during the December holidays

Tips for keeping your kids safe during the December holidays

The holidays are fast approaching, and although the festive season is associated with families spending time together, fun activities, celebrations and relaxing, there are also certain increased risks parents or guardians should be aware of and prepare for.
Here are tips for protecting your family, especially the younger members, this festive season:
1. Supervision during water-based activities
Unfortunately, drownings are a common occurrence over the festive season. Whether at the ocean, in a swimming pool or at a waterpark, supervision is vital to keep your children safe. Discuss the perils of drowning with your children in a calm and informative manner – they need to be aware of the danger, and not risk themselves. They need to understand that they are only allowed to enter the water when an informed adult is present, and to stick to shallow waters, depending on their age and swimming ability.
Young children should also always be wearing swimming safety equipment when in proximity to the water, whether safety wings, life jackets, etc., depending on their swimming ability.
When it comes to swimming, safe is always better than sorry.
2. Teach your children road safety rules
Traffic accidents and incidents are notoriously high over holiday periods, and the festive season is no exception. Teach your children road safety rules, like how to cross streets, and ensure that they are aware of the danger of not following these rules. They should also know that other people don’t always follow the road rules, and that they therefore always need to pay close attention when crossing the road.
Older children might spend time away from you, getting rides from friends or other people. Ensure they know to never get into a vehicle being driven by an intoxicated person – they need to understand that they will be risking their lives, and it is never worth it.
Also, should you be traveling during the festive season, ensure you are well rested, especially for longer road trips. You can also limit distractions on the road by planning activities or packing toys that will keep young children occupied during the trip.
3. Safety around the home
If your children are old enough to stay at home alone, make sure they are informed of expected guests or deliveries, and are aware that they should not open the door to strangers. They should also inform you if they see anything (or anyone) strange around the home or neighbourhood – again, safe is better than sorry.
4. Help your kids memorise your contact details
Whether your children have cell phones or not, it is important that they memorise your or another family member’s number – cell phones can die, get lost or stolen, and your children should always be able to reach you.
5. Establish a separation protocol
Getting separated from your children in a busy shopping centre or on a beach is every parent’s worst nightmare. This is why you should establish a separation protocol. Always point out people of authority your child should go to in case of separation, for example security guards or information booths in shopping centres, or lifeguards on the beach. This is also an instance in which it is vital for your children to have memorised your contact details.


Here is how Catrobatkidz is making a real difference for Sparrow learners

Here is how Catrobatkidz is making a real difference for Sparrow learners

Catrobatkidz has been helping learners all over the country develop and improve their body awareness, balance, locomotion, gross and fine motor skills, spatial relationships, rhythm and timing, strength, flexibility, and coordination since 2001, and Sparrow is fortunate to also offer our learners the opportunity to take part in this movement exercise-based educational programme.

Sparrow educators have certainly noticed improvement in the learners taking part in Catrobatkidz – here are some real-life success stories from the classroom. The names of learners have been changed to initials in order to protect their privacy.

It helps learners to better listen to and follow instructions

The Catrobatkidz programme may be a physical endeavour, but it has reaped real benefits for learners who have trouble listening to and following instructions.

Ms Tayla Robertson, who runs the Catrobatkidz programme at Sparrow, has cited E. as a good example here. When the learners started with Catrobatkidz in the second term of this year, E. was not able to listen to or follow instructions at all, but is now able to follow instructions with much more ease – this holds real benefits in the classroom, where listening is an indispensable skill.

It helps learners to better understand and use English

Considering English is not the first language of most of Sparrow’s learners, it is critical to develop their English language skills in the foundation phase. Catrobatkidz, which uses English as the instructional language, has really helped B. to improve her English language skills. This means that she will also be able to perform better in class.

It aids learners with behavioural issues

V.’s bad behaviour made Catrobatkidz a struggle when she first started with the programme. Thanks to Catrobatkidz, V. has shown vast behavioural improvement, and is also better at following instructions.

It helps learners who struggle to concentrate and stay on task

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is something that can be challenging to both learners and educators, but is unfortunately quite prevalent among learners today, for a variety of reasons. When they started with Catrobatkidz in term two, K. had troubled listening properly, M. would constantly shout out answers, and P. walked around all the time. These learners’ experience with the Catrobatkidz programme has improved these behavioural patterns in every instance.

The behavioural and skills improvement that the Sparrow learners who take part in Catrobatkidz have shown is not only restricted to the programme, but has also translated to improvements in their academic abilities, performance, and overall wellbeing. We are grateful to Catrobatkidz for the important work they do for the learners at Sparrow, and are excited to see further improvement in 2020.


Graduates, jumpstart your career in 2020 with these tips

Graduates, jumpstart your career in 2020 with these tips

2020 is around the corner, with all-new possibilities to discover – a blank calendar waiting to be filled in. Will 2020 be the year you enter the job market and start building a career? If so, you should give yourself the best chance of success by properly preparing.
From writing the perfect cover letter and CV to impressing in an interview, these tips will help you on your professional journey:
1. Find a job you can apply for
There are many online job portals where vacancies are advertised. You can usually set up notifications on these portals, and then receive information about any new job listings that fit with your requirements.
Also visit the actual websites of companies you are interested in working for or that you think might have opportunities for you. Some companies only list vacancies on their own websites to ensure candidates are interested in the company specifically.
Also, never underestimate the power of your network of friends and family. Tell them that you are looking for a job. Specify what you are looking for and what skills and experience you have. You never know – they might know someone who knows someone, who is looking for someone with your skillset.
2. Compile the perfect CV
When it comes to CVs, you need to keep it professional, simple and to the point. While you might have a standard CV listing your experience and qualifications, it is always best to adapt it to the specific job you are applying for. This might mean focusing on specific skills, highlighting areas of experience relevant to the job, etc. Ask yourself, “Why should I be considered for this position? Why can I do this job?” – your CV should answer these questions. This will show the recruiter or HR person processing the CVs that you actually thought about the job and its requirements, and that is sure to make a good impression.
3. Write the perfect cover letter
A cover letter is your first introduction to the recruiter or HR person, and if it does not impress, they might not even look at your CV. Just like your CV, your cover letter should be catered specifically to the job you are applying for. A generic cover letter is easy to spot, and could convey that you did not carefully consider the actual advertisement, or do not care enough about the position. Also, like your CV, the cover letter should be professional, simple and to the point. Don’t overcomplicate it with “high-brow” language or a lot of unnecessary explanations. Simply answer the questions: “Why should I be considered for this position? Why can I do this job? Why will I be a good fit with the company?”
4. Do research before the interview
As soon as you get an interview, you need to start preparing – this is your chance to convince the interviewer that you should get the job, so make it count. Research the company, and really think about the position you’re applying for ¬– how can you use your skills and experience to excel in this position? What do you bring to the company? How will you add value? How can you grow in the position, and grow the position? If you can covey these answers, you are sure to impress the interviewer.
5. Impress at the interview
And now it’s time for the interview, your chance to sell yourself to the company. It is important to create a positive impression, and the best way to do this is to:
• Be punctual.
• Dress professionally.
• Be open, friendly and smile.
• Talk clearly.
• Answer questions honestly.
• Be yourself, interviewers are good at spotting phonies.
• Convey that you are organised – if you have documents to submit, they should be organised so that you don’t have to shuffle through them to find the right ones.
• Stay calm and collected – if you’re nervous, take a moment to take a deep breath to calm your nerves.
If you’ve prepared properly and follow the above tips, there is no reason why your interview shouldn’t be a success.
6. Don’t give up
Although it is very disheartening when you don’t get the job you applied for, don’t let it get you down. Another candidate might simply have been a better fit for the company at that particular time, and an even better opportunity might be waiting for you just around the corner.
Good luck!



Corporate social responsibility: Do your part and make a difference

Corporate social responsibility: Do your part and make a difference

In a nutshell, the European Commission has defined corporate responsibility (CSR) as “the responsibility of enterprises for their impacts on society”. Although very simplified, this definition gets to the heart of what corporate social responsibility is – how companies can implement and sustain initiatives and strategies that ensure they positively affect society and their communities.
Corporate social responsibility has many benefits for a company. Today, socially-aware consumers and employees place a high importance on working for and spending their money with businesses that prioritise CSR.
A 2015 study by the Kenexa High Performance Institute in London found that companies that had a true commitment to corporate social responsibility by far outperformed those that did not, with an average return on assets 19 times higher.
Research by Cone Communications also reflects how much importance consumers place on corporate social responsibility. According to the research, 63% of Americans hope businesses will drive social and environmental change in the absence of government regulation. Nearly 90% of the consumers surveyed said they would buy a product because a company supported an issue they care about. More importantly, roughly 75% will refuse to buy from a company if they learn it supports an issue contrary to their own beliefs.
Thus, a company’s corporate social responsibility strategies and initiatives deeply impact its image with consumers.
When it comes to employees, studies have found that an employer’s CSR strategies affect morale and engagement. This is especially true for millennials, who are estimated to make up 75% of the workforce by 2025.
It becomes very clear that corporate social responsibility makes perfect business sense – but where should you start?
Corporate social responsibility falls into four categories: environmental efforts and sustainability, philanthropy, ethical labour practices and volunteering. All four areas are very important, and companies should incorporate all four into their CSR strategy, however, here we will focus on philanthropy in particular.
Philanthropy involves becoming involved with a charity, cause or NGO, usually by providing financial aid, products or services. It is important to choose a cause that reflects the company’s ideals, so a successful partnership can be formed. Choosing a local cause to invest in will also benefit the company’s community.
While there are many worthy causes deserving of aid, consider the impact the charity or cause has on the community, its potential for growth, and its potential impact on South Africa as a country.
An example of an NGO changing lives and positively impacting South Africa is the Sparrow Schools Educational Trust. Since its inception in 1990, it has focused on bringing accredited schooling to cognitively-disabled and disadvantaged youth. It has since then established and expanded organisational structures to address a wider range of needs found in the current South African environment – this includes the creation of Sparrow FET College in 2010.
The Sparrow FET College adopts a theory, practice and real-world application approach to skills development. In the classroom, learners cover theoretical curriculum content in a simulated workplace environment through which theoretical and practical skills are taught and applied. Learners then carry these skills to their industry placement.
Sparrow FET College and the industry work together to provide learners with internships during which they are fully supported, comprehensively trained, and prepared for future employment.
Tackling education and unemployment in South Africa is indeed a worthy cause, and there are also additional benefits for corporations that support Sparrow. For more information, visit the Sparrow website.


Why vocational training is important in the South African economic landscape

Why vocational training is important in the South African economic landscape

Speaking to Brand South Africa, the director of international at the City and Guilds Group, Mike Dawe, cites vocational training as one of the essential cogs in the economic machine of the country.

“Vocational education can help fill skills gap, boost productivity, enhance industries employment, all of which have a significant impact on individuals, businesses and the economy as a whole,” says Dawe.

Indeed, Vocational Education Training (VET) is essential to keep the wheels of enterprise turning. Also known as Career and Technical Education (CTE) or Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), this type of skills development training sets out to develop both the skills and knowledge required to do a particular job within a specific profession, craft or trade. Within the realm of formal education, many public or private TVET colleges and technical universities offer national qualifications – as opposed to other ways in which a person can acquire vocational training, including apprenticeships or on-the-job training.

Vocational training differs from other tertiary qualifications (those offered at universities, for example) in the sense that the focus falls on preparing students for their chosen profession or trade by equipping them with the skills and theoretical knowledge needed to perform the day-to-day duties associated with their trade or profession. Here, the focus is primarily on real skills, although these are still grounded with theoretical industry-related knowledge.

Vocational education for careers in the technical or practical fields contribute greatly to addressing the skills shortage in the country, as well as to reaching the National Development Goals for employment. By creating a workforce that is capable of supporting inclusive growth of the economy and the many sectors that it is made up of, vocational training is imperative to initiating economic growth and providing employment opportunities in a country where skills are valued and scarce.

A 2016 report on VET in South Africa, India, the US and the UK, compiled by the City and Guilds Group, found that 36% of the South African CEOs surveyed were extremely concerned about the availability of key skills. Compared to a global average of 17%, the opinions of local CEOs speak volumes about just how important vocational education training is to furthering the country’s economic and development goals.

To find out more about how the programmes offered at Sparrow FET College can further your career, contact us today.


How to recognise and avoid bogus colleges

How to recognise and avoid bogus colleges

In an economic environment where skills translate to employment opportunities, young people in South Africa are increasingly turning to private providers of education and training to prepare and empower themselves for the job market. However – and unfortunately – many of the colleges that claim to provide accredited training and learning opportunities are nothing but fly-by-night institutions, the qualifications of which aren’t worth the paper they are written on.

There are ways to distinguish these bogus institutions of higher learning by paying attention to a few key characteristics. Here’s how to ensure that private colleges and educational institutions are legitimate.

Do your research

Making sure that a private college is legitimate starts by researching the college and making sure it is registered with, and accredited by the relevant bodies.

Firstly, institutions of learning have to be registered with the state in order to legally operate in South Africa.

With regards to private FET colleges, this will be the Department of Higher Education and Training, unless the private college in question offers short courses and skills programmes accredited exclusively by the QCTO, in which case they do not have to register with the Department of Education. Aside from being registered with the appropriate Department of Education, private providers of education and training also have to be accredited with a quality assurance body.

These quality assurance bodies include the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO), the Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) or the Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education or Training (Umalusi).

Make sure that an educational institution is offering accredited programmes by checking whether it is registered with the South African National Qualifications Framework.

The NQF is the national standard of learning achievements used to ascertain the professional qualification a person has. You can do this online by visiting the South African Qualifications Authority’s website. On the SAQA website, hover your mouse over “Services” in the header of the page, and select “List of Accredited Providers” from the drop-down menu. An Excel file, updated with providers that are currently accredited to offer qualifications and unit standards will be downloaded, from where you can search for the name of the institution you’d like to verify.

When visiting the institution, ask to see the certificate or letter, issued by the relevant quality assurance body or the Department of Higher Education and training – by law these verifying documents need to be publicly available.

Sparrow FET College offers various NQF-level programmes – all accredited by quality assurance bodies – that empower our students to thrive in various industries, including construction, engineering, hospitality, manufacturing, education, IT, sports, and business administration. To find out more, or to apply for an accredited programme, contact Sparrow FET College today.


Sparrow welcomes treasured UK partners, Tudor Hall School and Alleyn’s School

Sparrow welcomes treasured UK partners, Tudor Hall School and Alleyn’s School

Sparrow is grateful for the many international partnerships we have, and especially for the partnerships with schools abroad. Two such cherished connections are our relationships with the Tudor Hall School for Girls in Oxfordshire in the UK and Alleyn’s School in Dulwich.

From 21 to 25 October this year, Sparrow Foundation School was lucky enough to play host to five high school learners and two educators from Tudor Hall School, with 19 high school learners and three sports coaches from Alleyn’s School paying a visit on 22 October.

Upon their arrival in the country, the girls and teachers from Tudor Hall spent their first night in South Africa at the Vaal Dam, where they also went on a tour of the Dell Cheetah Centre just outside of Parys in the Free State – this non-profit organisation is focused on the conservation of the fastest land animal.

It was all systems go when our Tudor Hall partners arrived at Sparrow, and they immediately sprung into gear, assisting teachers in our pride and joy – the newly upgraded multi-purpose sensory room.

As October is Healthy Eating Month, the girls and educators, along with the team from Alleyn’s School, incorporated this into their offering to Sparrow’s learners, which included reading and learning about healthy food, and teaching learners how to identify the different food groups. Alleyn’s School prepared 300 delicious cheese and tomato sandwiches for every Sparrow learner, before our music teacher treated them to a proudly South African drumming lesson with the Sparrow learners.

This is not the first time Tudor Hall has contributed to education at Sparrow: aside from consistent financial support, Tudor Hall has also revamped our music room and sponsored a piano, and have also beautified our reading corners. Through the years, Alleyn’s School has also contributed financially towards various projects and improvements at Sparrow. We are immensely grateful for these continued partnerships, which we still treasure as much as we ever have over the years.

We bid our friends from Tudor Hall and Alleyn’s School farewell for now, but look forward to many more years of fruitful collaboration!


Sparrow FET success story: Tshepo Mbeazi

Sparrow FET success story: Tshepo Mbeazi

“Sparrow changed my life,” says 25-year-old Sparrow graduate and chef, Tshepo Mbeazi. We were lucky enough to sit down with this aspiring young restaurateur while he was in South Africa on a two-month break, after working on a cruise ship for the past few months.

Tshepo graduated from Sparrow FET College with a Professional Cookery Learnership in 2017, after completing his studies on a Nedbank and Wilmar Fats and Oils-sponsored bursary.

Mastering the craft of cooking seems like it came naturally to Tshepo, who did his practical training at the Sandton Sun Hotel after attaining his NQF Level 4 qualification from Sparrow FET College. Here, Tshepo didn’t rest on his laurels, entering the Chef of the Year competition as a junior chef at the Sandton Sun Hotel. Tshepo was named one of the top 6 finalists in Gauteng, and this taste of success inspired him to apply for a chef position on the cruise ship Norwegian Gateway.

On the ship, Tshepo, along with the other chefs on the ship, was tasked with taking care of the culinary needs of between 4,000 and 5,000 passengers. The Norwegian Gateway started its journey across the ocean in Miami in the US, heading towards Europe, where Tshepo was able to visit Spain, Italy and Greece. Tshepo admits the hours were long but maintains it was all worth it, saying it was “amazing to travel the world”.

Tshepo plans to travel for five more years before returning to his homeland to open a fine dining restaurant of his own – he plans to simply call it FINE.

Loving what you do is paramount for Tshepo, who says, “you must have a passion and love for what you’re going to do”, before deciding on a career. However, Tshepo believes that passion alone is not enough.

“Anything is possible when you believe in yourself and work hard,” says this proud product of Sparrow FET College, adding, “Attitude is the most important quality to achieve success”.

Tshepo, we delight in your continued success, and are excited about what the future holds. With your insatiable appetite for triumph, we are already smacking our lips in anticipation of our first dining experience at FINE.