Late starters

Normal, Weekender

The National, Friday, April 29, 2011

Journalist ALFREDO P HERNANDEZ describes Tembari’s modest success in its preschool programme


WHEN they joined Tembari’s preschool programme for the first time last year, these five children neither had the chance to hold a book before nor read a single written word.
In short, they never had the opportunity to be in a classroom during their lifetime, getting some education.
The great story is that graduating from Tembari preschool last year and moving up to the next level this school year they leaped straight to primary – in Grade 4 and Grade 5 – instead of slotting themselves in Grade 1, which should be the normal process.
But you see, their situation is quite unique. When they joined our preschool programme early last year – their first time ever to be in school — they were already in their early teens, aged from 12 to 15.
Nicholas Hivi, 15; Rua Raymono, 14; Joyce Nancy, 13; Emily Pange, 13; and Audrey Steven, 12, have similar heartrending stories – they are all living with single mothers who have no means to put them to school, even in preschool at that.
They first learnt of Tembari’s preschool classes when they first came to The Center in 2009 to join its daily feeding programme along with about 78 orphans, abandoned and unfortunate children. Early this year, their number has grown to 175.
Food was always lacking at home and Tembari, as a day care center, was the only place at ATS Oro Settlement at 7 Mile, outside of Port Moresby where they could have food at least once a day.
Tembari founder and program manager Penny Sage-embo — learning that they had never been in school despite their ages — offered to take them in for The Center’s preschool education.
Knowing their predicament as first-time learners, the preschool teacher who handled them last year – Joe Oyu – worked hard by giving them school work that catered to mental capabilities of children their age.
Their special lessons were geared towards perking up their reading and writing potential and their ability to handle simple operations of arithmetic.
When Tembari enrolled them early this year at Wardstrip Elementary School at Gordon in Port Moresby, to join Grade 1, the school administrator immediately suggested they should join the primary school – in Grade 4 and 5.
But first the head teacher wanted to find out if they could handle work in that grade level.
Impressed with their performance, he supported a formal recommendation from Tembari’s administrator Janet Tema that they should be promoted to Grade 4 and 5.
Learning of the good but rather odd news, the children’s single mothers were shocked.
On the other hand, Rua, Nicholas, Joyce, Audrey and Emily were quite excited to move to the “big school”, but nervous as they were going straight to Grade 4 and 5 and did not have any idea how things would be like up there.
To them, their three-grade jump, in which they avoided doing Grade 1, 2 and 3, was unbelievable.
Nicholas and Rua are classmates in Grade 5, section A, while Joyce is in Grade 5, section F. Audrey is in Grade 4, section B and Emily, also Grade 4, in Section C.
Janet Tema, herself a preschool teacher, told me on Saturday that the five actually took their elementary education – Grades 1, 2 and 3 – while sitting in classes at Tembari’s preschool.
“We were able to design a special programme to prepare them for school works at higher grade levels,” she said.
Now, to sustain their good breaks, Janet has volunteered to give them special tutoring every Saturday, covering phonetics, reading, writing and arithmetic.
“This would help them catch up with school loads that are the staple in Grades 4 and 5,” she said.
No longer children but blooming teenagers, they quite enjoy life where they are now at school.
The only hassle is that they have to work hard to really deserve their blessings.
And as patron of Tembari children, I ardently hope they can take the pressure.
Indeed, their feat is a modest success in our preschool programme. It is something that we, at Tembari, are proud of.


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