The Three2Six Refugee Children’s Education Project (a project of the Marist Brothers) provides an afternoon bridging education programme for refugee and migrant children in South Africa, which aims to transition children into mainstream, public education as soon as possible.
The programme employs refugee teachers, who instruct the children in Maths, English and Life Skills classes at three host schools that make their facilities available to Three2Six each afternoon from 3pm to 6pm, after their day students have finished classes. This is where the project gets its name: Three2Six. Students of Three2Six receive uniforms, textbooks and school materials, as well as one meal per day and in some cases, safe transport to and from school.
Due to the lockdown regulations in South Africa, the project had to close its campuses in mid-March 2020. From that point, the project team carried out initiatives to keep the children learning, which included broadcasting weekly lessons on a Catholic radio station, Radio Veritas, and sending lessons and homework via Whatsapp, as the students do not have access to technology at home.
Since the campuses were closed, it meant that the children were not able to receive their regular one meal per weekday from the project, which is sometimes the only meal they receive each day. The lockdown also represented a huge loss of income for the parents, which dramatically impacted on their ability to sustain their families. In response, during the weeks of lockdown, the project team sent food vouchers to enrolled families, which they could redeem at large food retailers. When regulations allowed, the team switched to physical distributions of food parcels. They also distributed PPE and hygiene items to the families, using emergency funding from Misean Cara.
After three months of distance learning, from mid-June, the children were able to come back on campus. Strict COVID-19 protocols were introduced to ensure everyone’s safety. As they returned to school, efforts were made to catch up on the teaching time that was lost during the weeks of hard lockdown by increasing the length of the week at school and by going on educational camps with older grades.
Once they were back on campus, all children were provided with psychosocial support through a partner organisation to ensure the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on them was lessened. In total six psychologists were engaged, on a part-time basis, to provide this support.
In December, the Three2Six project held its annual holiday programme over a week. Because of COVID-19, some adjustments had to be made but many fun activities for the children were carried out, from a camp day to outings to the zoo, a bunny haven and a food garden, as well as activities such as Judo, a mini Olympics day, science, a tree planting activity, storytelling, painting, beading, reading, board games and more.