Community formation through after-school programs

Extracurricular programs play a significant role in ensuring that students can develop academically and explore their creative potential. An organization in Cape Town is trying to bridge the education gap between mainstream schooling and the visual arts.
South Africa’s primary education system comes in a wide variety of different categories and classifications. Two that are commonly known are private and public education. The most notable of these is the public education system, as it encompasses the majority of students in the country compared to its private counterpart.

For this reason, among others, there is an inefficiency of resources in public education. This is where school programs play a key role in bridging the gap in education as well as ensuring that students are engaged in activities that help them advance themselves and their surrounding communities.

Although there is no universal agreement on what constitutes a successful or effective program or how it should be structured. There is some agreement about several elements that can go into one.

However, there is an association between program attendance and better academic performance as well as behavior attributed to after-school programs that use a developmental approach. The most comprehensive programs also have benefits for academics.

By providing these programs outside of school, children can improve their academic performance by participating in after-school music and arts enrichment programs.

Early Birds Academy, an after-school program currently operating in eMfuleni, a township located in the Cape Flats region of the Western Cape, is an organization that aims to transform the community through education.

Founded in late 2017 and later registered as an NGO in July 2018, School Aftercare was established with the intention of identifying students with potential in the creative arts within the community and creating a safe space for them to learn and develop their academic abilities.
The founder of Early Birds Academy adds that adopting an academically formalized approach was key to establishing the academy as it served to accommodate all students in their preferred language of instruction.

This would also include finding out whether students are more inclined towards numerical or linguistic school subjects.

The Academy also places great emphasis on strengthening the student’s potential in the creative arts. This is partly because some of the students involved aspire to careers in the visual and dramatic arts. This unique ability to connect the creative arts with academic learning activities earned them the 2019 Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) award.

However, as with most non-profit organizations, the day-to-day running of Early Birds Academy is not without problems, as the founder points out.

One of the key issues is the lack of adequate security, which tends to be a problem as the academy is located in a village where volunteers are usually robbed.

In addition, the lack of consistently available transportation for students to and from the respective schools is also a long-term problem. However, they managed to partially reach out.

Some of the organizations that have partnered with Early Birds Academy, including Good Housekeeping magazine, were able to secure R15 000 in charity funding from Early Birds Academy by taking part in their call for pitches.

The Academy also works with the Arts Foundation and the Novel Foundation to introduce students to art and how they can benefit from its commercial value.

As for future plans, the founder of the academy further states that they intend to expand by opening another branch in Tsomo, Eastern Cape.

Those interested in participating in their after-school program can contact Early Birds Academy through the following channels: Instagram: early.birds. Academy website: http://earlybirds.org.za/ Contact number: 064 198 9346

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