You can’t teach a hungry child

Nutrition is one of the three major factors that impact a child’s development and there is an undeniably strong relationship between nutrition, health and learning.  With research studies showing that nutrition in a child’s early years are linked to their health and academic performance; Sparrow Schools understands the importance of nutrition and the effect it has on our learner’s academic performance. Keeping this in mind, with the support of Nambikkai we have been able to provide nutritious meals to our learners at the Foundation School who are unable, due to socio-economic reasons, to access this basic need, we have now expanded this program to our Combined Technical Skills School with the generous further support of Nambikkai.

Second to nutrition, one of the main reasons of introducing the feeding scheme to our school was due to the fact that many of our children come from disadvantaged homes and are forced to go to school hungry. Based on recent statistics, according to the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in 2017 over 1.5 billion students face food shortages at school, a shocking statistic as food is one of the most basic needs. With the continued support with Nambikkai, we at Sparrow thrive to alleviate this issue and will continue to provide meals to our children so that they are able to focus on their academics and school work.


Charities Aid Foundation South Africa

Recently, Sparrow Schools Educational Trust received an invitation to a Meet and Greet event with the Charities Aid Foundation of Southern Africa (CAFSA), in order to connect with like-minded individuals within the nonprofit sector. It was an exciting opportunity to learn more about CAFSA and the work they do, as well as to be able to meet different people with a similar vision to impact lives and make a difference in South Africa.

The aim of this event was to engage with CAFSA in a conversation about how we can share ideas and collaborate, as collaboration is a vital tool in building a sustainable and impactful change in South Africa. Whether collaboration is with corporates, CSI teams, individuals, government or other organisations within the nonprofit sector, ultimately we all have the same social justice mindset, and the vision to improve our country.

As part of the conversation, CAFSA has asked us to answer a few VOX pop up questions to be used in their social media and marketing. These questions were focused on social justice, and we wish to share our answers with our audience:

Why do you think a strong civil society is so important in South Africa?A strong civil society also allows us the platform in which people and organisations are able to advocate for the things they believe in and to solve problems in their communities. We believe that transformation for South Africa begins with its people, individuals, and communities. If we all believe in the same positive vision for the future then as a country we can do great things together. We believe a strong civil society is for a number of reasons, specifically

as an NPO where the non-government and non-profit organisation space has been a huge support in building up the economy. Based on a nonprofit statistical approach since 2017 there were 120 227 compliant NPIs operating in South Africa last year, that is a large number of compliant non-governmental organisations and institutions that were built for the sole purpose of some sort of social justice scheme they wish to support.

What more would you like to see action in order for us to achieve a stronger civil society? We need to support organisations and people who can help rebuild people’s confidence, especially those who try to improve schools & education, the government, the environment or whatever their communities need As an organisation, we would like to see a more focus made in the education sector, the youth and the underprivileged in South Africa. We need to bridge the gap and be part of the transformation to provide access to education from the most basic level. South Africa has made the effort to provide higher education to the youth of South Africa but at the same time, basic education for those who are disadvantaged should be highlighted and job creation prioritised for those receiving higher education and training.

Let’s also build on what people are already familiar with, this way we help them take ownership of the process of improving their communities (eg) Unemployment. You also need to make sure that everyone has a ‘voice” from the unemployed youth who has just graduated to the mother who cannot afford to send her child to school.

As Q1 of 2018 closes, what initiatives/partnerships are you particularly excited for in the rest of the year? The launch of the YES Program (Youth Employment Service) – YES is one of the first social compacts between government, business and labour created to give one million youth one million opportunities to succeed, while securing South Africa’s economic prosperity. Together with our FET programmes, we are able to impart technical skills and capabilities to young people and assist with work programs to provide experience

As an organisation, we wish to partner with this initiative as we believe we have a similar vision and goal and we believe that we can provide support to the government as well as receive support in order to build this initiative and assist our youth to reach their full potential. A joint partnership with CAFSA is also very exciting and your support would help us become more beneficial to our country and community.

What role does, or could, your sector play to strengthen civil society? Within the Non-profit sector, it can be said that we are able to strengthen civil society through communities and individuals that work with the purpose of building up young people and focusing on issues that we have in our country.

We believe this sector is a core aspect of the transformation of South Africa because the NPO sector can reach and affect the lives of individuals sometimes more effectively than government or with the support of the government. In terms of our organisation: Sparrow Schools. We have 3 schools established within our organisation.

  • The Sparrow Foundation School caters for learners with cognitive disabilities and barriers to learning from preschool to grade 7 who have been previously disadvantaged.
  • Our Combined Technical Skills High School also caters for learners with barriers to learning but also provides a streamlining pathway to our Sparrow FET College where students have the option to continue their education at TVET College that caters for their specific skills. All our institutions have been Umalusi accredited and we believe this ensures that we continue to provide efficient and quality education to our students.
  • Our Sparrow FET College solely focuses on the youth of South Africa and we hope this provides support to strengthen our civil society as the youth is the future of South Africa and we hope in some way that our organisation will add value to the country as a whole.

We are able to reach cognitively disabled and disadvantaged youth who have the desire to learn a skill:

-We are able to provide learners with theory, practice and a real-world application approach to skills development and training.

-We are able to link graduates with industry by assisting with internships during which they are fully supported, comprehensively trained, and prepared for future employment.


Sparrow Foundation School Introduces our Bridging Class

This year, Sparrow Foundation School along with Charity Fusion and Rays of Hope established a bridging class for learners aged 6-8 coming from disadvantaged homes and who were unable to attend preschool. The bridging class focuses on learning through play and intends to prepare the children for Grade 1. This class was formed recognizing the need in providing a preparatory pathway for children, as a major challenge the Foundation School faces is that some children entering into the school have no previous form of schooling and children would often experience additional challenges in their first year of schooling, thus deterring them from moving to the next grade with ease. Therefore, a bridging class became the most suitable avenue for these children in order to support them and allow access to basic education, as well as, creating a safe haven and positive learning environment.

The main aim of the Bridging Class is to provide an opportunity for these children to further develop their skills and knowledge in a comfortable and happy environment where they feel encouraged and involved. With this in mind, Deputy Principal; Lindsay Stephen and the HOD of Foundation Phase, Maritza de Vries, developed a curriculum to suit the needs of the children by combining principles of Grade R and Grade 1. This tailored curriculum allows learning to be a practical approach whilst assisting with the language barriers and concentrating on specialized activities in developing the learners’ cognitive abilities and motor skills which will support them to gradually move into formal academic learning without feeling too overwhelmed. The hope of this class is to accommodate their needs so that they become self-motivated to learn, and to allow them the opportunity to apply themselves and expose their individuality so that they are able to build on their personal and academic skills. Not only is this class a means to provide a comfortable and safe pathway towards their education but it is an opportunity to help disadvantaged children by creating a safeguarded space where they feel worthy and appreciated.

The curriculum developed is based on building on prior knowledge, learning through play and specialised activities to assist with the children’s overall academic, behavioral and emotional development and will remain a fun and playful learning experience too; it focuses on fundamentals such as literacy and numeracy, computers, gospel and life skills. Life skills is a vital part of the curriculum in the development of young minds, concentrating on beginning knowledge, personal and social well-being, physical education and arts and craft. The idea of creating a safe environment also means keeping classes small and intimate, so it is centralized around each individual learner.  Having dedicated, committed teachers and volunteers, Jessica Moore and Marleen contribute to the notion of having a schooling environment making learning fun.

This would be the first year for the Bridging Class and Sparrow is thrilled to bring new changes and be a part of these children’s educational journey and development. As time passes the idea for the class would be to allow the children an opportunity to continue their education with the correct fundamentals in place. At the end of term 3, the learners would have completed assessments which will be evaluated, thus determining if these learners would repeat or move onto Grade 1, but depending on the age of the learners, there might be a possibility to refer them to a more specialised needs school or training center.

Lastly, we believe the Bridging Class will be an integral part of Sparrow education and it will bring on momentous improvements not only for the children but the organization as a whole.

Sparrow Combined Technical High School receives Umalusi accreditation

Sparrow Combined Technical Skills High School is part of a pilot project in conjunction with the Department of Education. Sparrow Combined Technical Skills High School aims to provide vocational training and specialised education to our learners over a four year period where learners are awarded with an NQF level 1 qualification.This General Certificate of Education is recognised by the GDE and SETA. With this accreditation, the Combined Technical Skills School offers a fully accredited occupational skills programme, enabling learners with remedial needs to gain access to educational and skills development training. The Combined Technical Skills High School also provides a pathway for students entering from the Foundation School as well as learners who may further their education with the Sparrow FET College.

The Umalusi Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education aims to oversee the activities regarding Private institutions and independent schools in South Africa. The Umalusi council aims to bridge the gap where government bodies were unable to conduct research on matters relating to private institutions and independent schools. The aim of the council is to mandate research and development for education and training as a whole as well as provide an opportunity for institutions to register and receive accreditation to deliver quality education and service for private providers of education. The Council’s research agenda and research projects are supported and critiqued by a Research Forum consisting of prominent academics and experts.In accrediting institutions Umalusi is guided by policy documents that contain criteria for accreditation for each institutional type.

Umalusi is mandated to accredit private providers of education and training and grants institutions a license to operate in South Africa. As stated in the Umalusi accreditation, all private institutions should be accredited in order to operate within South Africa. With this seen foresight, the Combined Technical High School applied for an Umalusi accreditation beforehand in order to be ahead within the industry and be a licensed training provider. Sparrow believes that accreditation is imperative in providing vocational training to our learners.

The quality assurance process attests the institution but allows for improvements in order to better education practices. The council evaluated all policies and procedures within Sparrow Combined Technical High School, from employee registration, student enrolment, teaching practices, curriculum development as well as the disciplinary processes.

Approval was granted and we were happy to announce the Umalusi received status to the Combined Technical Skills High School. This accreditation confirms the quality of provision offered and allows Sparrow to continually monitor the education practices efficiently to remain in line with the framework and requirements set before the council, therefore monitoring and evaluating performance to be compliant and ultimately enable Sparrow as an institution to provide quality education for our learners.

Our Story

Trust history

What started as a Saturday morning school in 1989 with only four learners has developed into an ever-growing Non-Profit Educational Trust, catering for children with learning disabilities and upskilling the youth of South Africa.

Sparrow schools has expanded into three institutions, namely the Foundation School for young learners with remedial and special needs, Sparrow Combined Technical Skills School and Sparrow FET College, catering for more than 600 youth from impoverished communities.  These three projects are all aimed at empowering learners to prosper in the educational sector and thereafter in the working environment. Learners acquire the necessary skill sets offered at the institutions to allow them to be a part of a prospering society and economy.

Dreaming to Fly with Thabo Hlalele.

No words can describe the level of positivity and motivation Thabo possesses. He is such an inspiring man, always laughing and persevering to challenge himself regardless of the obstacles he faced.

Thabo suffered a severe stroke which left him in a wheelchair, losing mobility in his hands as well as paralyzing the right side of his face. However, this did not limit him at all, he strived to overcome this tragedy and spent a year training himself to walk on crutches and today as I write this story he was able to stand on his own to take a picture.

Before attending Sparrow FET, he was vendor selling ladies jewelry and working at the Health Department with general administrative work. He then completed a Business Administration course in 2010 and while considering studying further he heard about Sparrow FET through a friend who completed a painting course with. They then both decided to join Sparrow FET college and became great friends and a strong support system. He says that he is extremely grateful to have a this support system because he does not have any children nor is he married although he believes that those aspects are true blessings and it will be provided God willingly.

Thabo decided to complete the End user course in order become self-reliant and independent to aid with his construction business in his neighbourhood. He has become a great motivation to everyone he meets and his advice to anybody with similar circumstances is to never give up, to get an education because knowledge is power. He says that life itself isn’t that hard but the way in which we approach and deal with it depicts what we make of it.

Dreaming to fly!

Kayla Louw is a vibrant, bubbly and confident 18 year old young lady that is determined to reach her dreams and aspirations.

Prior to Sparrow Combined Technical School, Kayla briefly attended Blairgowrie Primary School and then moved onto homeschooling for two years. Her decision to be homeschooled was due to her having no interest in school because of the environment she was in.

Although, the decision to be homeschooled seemed sensible at the time, she started to become despondent. As a result, she was demotivated and stopped swimming with her swimming team, this coming as a shock to her as well as her friends and family as swimming was her outlet that kept her motivated.  Kayla became extremely lonely due to the lack of social interaction while being homeschooled.

Regardless of these challenges, Kayla was determined to continue her education and decided to find a school that would be able to assist and accept her in the middle of a school term. Kayla then heard about Sparrow Combined Technical School and was certain it would be the best fit for her.

Kayla has always been a headstrong and focused student, but as her Grade 9 year started coming to an end she became anxious on what the following years held in store for her. However, because of her work ethic and her focus on academics, she was accepted by Sparrow FET College to study Information Technology: End User Computing at Sparrow FET College in 2018. She was grateful knowing she had direction moving into 2018.

Kayla’s future dream is to become a pilot. She has endless potential and despite her challenges and mental obstacles she has faced, she continues to be determined and a role model in her community to help empower and guide young women around her.



Assistant teacher with a secret talent

Many people struggle to get into a university because of their low admission Point Score (APS) that result from their matric results, therefore when such happens they either repeat matric or upgrade their marks at institutions that offer those study options. This was also the case for Tenielle Johnson, the 22 year old young lady didn’t give up on her dream all because of university APS score marks, and she took courage and decided to upgrade her mathematics and science marks after matric so that she can study further. Her aunt referred her to the school as she was an employee of Sparrow Schools.

Before enrolling at Sparrow FET College, she was planning on studying a teaching course after upgrading her marks. She enrolled for the Early Childhood Development programme at Sparrow FET College as she has a passion for teaching. Her biggest challenge while at the college was to achieve more than 80% on all assessments. Even though it was challenging, she worked hard and was determined to pass the course. According to Miss Johnson, 2016 was the best year for her as she met a lot of people that she is still friends with today. Her facilitator, Miss Tessa  who has extensive knowledge in Early Childhood Development, taught her alot. She is currently on her workplace experience as an assistant teacher at The Foundation school where she is getting hands on experience of teaching foundation phase children. Working with children requires patience, versatility, problem solving skills, being able to multitask but most importantly having the passion to teach. The Early Childhood Development programme is a 12 months course, where learners are based at the college for 6 months and 6 more months at a workplace to gain practical working experience.

Tenielle is planning on studying either a psychology course or a teaching course and this is because of the exposure she has received in dealing with children that have special needs and her passion for teaching children. The ever so bubbly and happy assistant teacher says that if she is given the opportunity to be a permanent teacher at the Sparrow Foundation School she would like to be an art teacher because she can draw very well and that is her secrete talent that she has been hiding from colleagues and some of her friends. As a young person after living in your parents’ house for a while, when you have a stable career you need to move out and start your own life so that you can be independent and learn to be responsible so that you can also have your family depending on you.

If you love children and have a passion for teaching, contact the Sparrow FET College and book your assessment now! 0116734419/10

We also have other great courses that you can choose from. 

Sometimes all our children need is a splash of colour: how colour aids learning for children of all ages

According to a whitepaper published by the Malaysian Journal of Medical History, colour is believed to be the most visual experience to human beings.  And we agree.

Colour is critical for young children, and as they grow through each life stage, and pass through the schooling system, so they need to be taught to adjust how they make use of colour, to study and succeed.

We find that in the foundation phase (grades one through three), the younger learners have a predisposition to warm colours, and thrive in a warm environment.  The reds, yellows and oranges that make up the warm palette, showcase more energy, and are dynamic for the eyes.  They convey energy and movement, which is a reflection of the learners.  Children in the foundation phase, are generally used for an audience that is curious and inquisitive.

Intermediate and senior phase learners, that are made up of grade four and above, are are actually looking at cooler, more neutrally aligned colours like blues, greens.  We find that this helps with learning because they are calmer, more relaxed colours.  These colours also aren’t as distracting as the warm colours – and puts them in a good place especially for concrete learning and longer periods of focus.

Where many people go wrong, is that in their enthusiasm to introduce colour is an all or nothing approach.  It is not about splashing the colour everywhere, but finding balance and subtlety.  We encourage parents and teacher to either identify one wall that could be (for example) fire engine red, or opt for a more muted shade or tone of red, that puts the colour in the vicinity, without compromising its intention – to facilitate learning.

Consider choosing different shades of a particular colour, rather than opting for lots of different colours.  Too much colour can lead to children being over stimulated, especially in a special needs school or environment.  This can be quite distracting for the learners.

When it comes to studying, we have a couple of tips for using colour:

  1. General work day – direct learners´ attention to an object or topic – if there is an important information cue, or critical information in a picture, show this either as bolded content, or better yet, use a different colour.  
  2. Sometimes, when there are similar words close to one another, or a lot of different information on a page, we suggest breaking it up into different colours to help learners see this in a contextual block.  It improves readability for learners and assists with information retention..
  3. Especially in mathematics, colour provides useful symbol and function differentiation.  For learners that have visual perception or mathematical learning challenges, the numbers and symbols can sometimes blur together.  We encourage learners to write numbers in blue pen, and allocate a colour to each symbol (or function) so plus and minus signs in a bold colour like red or green.  It stands out – and there are fewer mistakes in the calculations.
  4. Because we are dealing with a 21st century, technology driven learner, we find that colour worksheets help in terms of alleviating boredom.  Learners have become accustomed to colourful, image driven content – blogs, youtube videos and image driven tools that are dynamic.  So their brains are stimulated by this type of dynamic content and PowerPoint presentations, delivered using colour projectors, have become a useful teaching aide
  5. Emotional expression is critical, especially in the younger grades, when children don’t always have have the vocabulary to express their feelings.  Using colour in their workbooks on in drawings, allows them to get that emotion out, but make sure you are clear on the context of what they are feeling.

There is no right age to introduce colour, but we would always suggest this happening as early as possible.  More important than introducing colour, is ensuring that as your child grows and progresses through their schooling career, so too does his/ her exposure to colour both as a visual and learning tool. But be specific – don’t just give learners a bag of crayons or coloured pencils and sit back and get a rainbow from them.

Provide your child with guidelines, on how best to integrate colour into their learning processes.  For example, pre-determine what colours you would like to be used to show the symbols (functions) in Maths.  When they are learning study skills, attribute a specific colour to certain content – for example, everything related to plants could be in green, keywords related to photosynthesis yellow.  

Assign a purpose to the use of colour, and specific colours for learning.

But also consider context and don’t automatically decide on the emotional connection of a colour, without asking a child first.  We had a child in class in the foundation phase, who was drawing houses, and friends and siblings beautifully, but all the images were dark – lots of use of black and brown crayons.  Parents and teachers were all called together, and a concern was expressed that this child was very depressed.  When the child was called in to ask about the drawings, he explained that he sat at the back of the class, so by the time the crayons got to him, the only colours left were the browns and blacks.  

While it is amusing to recall this example, it is a good reminder to also put colour use into context, ask the child and check that assumptions aren’t being made about their emotional state.

Because we believe in inclusivity and celebrating diversity, Sparrow Schools support the Color Run, and will be participating at the superhero color run in September in Johannesburg, after all, everyone covered in coloured powder looks the same!  If you’d like to feel  how happy colour can make you feel, and celebrate inclusivity, please join the Sparrow Schools team (click for more info) for the Color Run on 10 September 2017

Warren Thompson, Learning Support manager at Sparrow Schools. 

To sign up, email your details through to us: 

From missing netball goals to sports coaching

Failure opens up room for improvement, motivation and gaining more knowledge. Zanele Nkabinde has always been a fan of netball but she kept missing the goal pole every time when she was practicing and also playing a match at school. Most people usually give up when they fail but this wasn’t the case for the 26 year old lady who loves teaching and netball. Her love for netball pushed her to teaching because she knew that even though she couldn’t play netball she will learn the rules of the game to teach children who are more passionate and talented.

Before enrolling at Sparrow FET College, Zanele was a sports coach at Hector Peterson Primary school for 2 years and was introduced to the college by her friend who heard of the college through word of mouth in the community. She then enrolled for Sports Coaching at the FET College and is currently doing her workplace experience at the Sparrow Foundation School. As she was only a netball sport coach at the Hector Peterson primary school, she is learning more about other types of sports and exercising activities at the Foundation School. This has helped to increase her knowledge of sports and physical fitness.

While at the college she was pregnant and it was difficult for her to perform most of the practical’s but that didn’t stop her from being positive and working hard to complete her studies. Liam, who was her facilitator at the college guided and supported her. Sports coaching is a broad career with a lot of opportunities that require dedication, versatility, commitment and persistence.

Zanele will be enrolling for a sports management course next year at a distant learning college to fulfill her dream and goals.  Before she enrolled at the College, she didn’t socialize with people as much but as soon as she started networking and socializing she was then told about the FET College. Zanele says that as a young person, if you are unemployed or you need any kind of assistance you don’t need to be shy as opportunities come to you when you start talking about your issue and socialize more with people. Miss Nkabinde is a living proof that opportunities can be acquired from word of mouth in the communities.

When you are advised about available opportunities , always make sure that you do your own research about of those opportunity as there is a high rate of job scams including bursaries scams in South Africa due to lack of funds and availability of jobs. To find out more about opportunities offered at the FET college contact us on 0116734410, let us help you to achieve your dream.