NGO Spotlight: Thanda

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One of the best aspects of my job at The Social Project is being able to connect with other NGOs and organisations who are making a difference in South Africa. Thanda is one such organisation. I was very impressed with the way they approached community care and education, so I thought I’d share it with you. This will be the first in a series of posts about some of the incredible NGOs at work in our country.

According to their website, Thanda was founded by Angela Larkan and Tyler Howard in 2008. Thanda’s aim is to equip knowledge, skills, and confidence to make positive contributions to their communities.

Misha and I spent an afternoon this week learning more about their program and the impact they are making. We are given a guided tour of the rural community centre, located near Hibberdene in the South Coast, KwaZulu Natal.

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Something that impressed me greatly is the enthusiasm of the learners who come to the ECD and after-school programmes at Thanda. They walk for hours in some cases, rain or shine, even its just for an opportunity to hang out in the library and read some books. These kids love learning and a healthy attitude to education is clearly on display.

The site manager, Sbusiso Msimango (aka “Raah”), told me a story about some learners who pitched up recently during the holiday season hoping that the after school educational programme was running. “Even though we told them they were welcome to use the facilities and play, they were so disappointed to hear that the programme wasn’t running that day”. The facilities include a skate park with a mini half-pipe. How often do kids walk for 2 hours to a school during the holidays hoping to actively learn? It’s clear something different is happening here.

The educational philosophy at Thanda is innovative, and clearly it works. You can read more about how and why they do what they do here.

Here are three principles of their educational philosophy which I took note of.

Using what you have.

Thanda use existing resources and cost-effective means of getting a lesson across. If they can re-use recycled goods, they will do so. I often fall into the trap of wanting to get the latest gadgets for the classroom. Creating your own toys and educational tools is a hugely valuable creative learning experience. It’s said often, but I shall say it again -we need to be mindful that we aren’t preparing learners to simply be consumers in our classrooms.

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A commitment to sustainability is evident.

Systems are in place at Thanda to re-use waste and recycle whenever possible. These principles and values are then taught in a way that’s tangible and evident. The kids who come to the community centre get involved in making these systems work. Take a look at their organic farming model to get an idea of what this all looks like.

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There is a clear emphasis on learning through play.

There is an atmosphere of enthusiasm and fun at Thanda. The learners engage in activities enthusiastically and seem to be fully committed to the process at work. They are clearly thriving in an environment that allows them to discover their passions through play. The more I incorporate play in my teaching, the more I see that it is closer to the core of how humans learn than any other method I have tried.

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All photos taken by Misha Lee Film and Photography. You can see more of her amazing work here

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