An Army of Volunteers

“We are going to need what a wonderful book calls a moral underground, an army of volunteers.” -Prof. Jonathan Jansen

DSC_0569 As a grandfather and long-time member of Westville Baptist Church, Sandy Forsyth has a heart for children and serving God.  Every Tuesday and Thursday morning, you can count on seeing Sandy at Addington Primary School.  Sandy consistently gives of his time to tutor students at Addington.  Rain or shine, and even when few volunteers are to be found, Sandy arrives at Addington, ready to pour into the lives of the children.

Five years ago, Sandy listened to a video in which Professor Jonathan Jansen spoke about the problem of education in South Africa.  Jansen discussed the incongruence between private schools, where a small amount of middle to upper class students attend, and the poorer and under-resourced public schools, where the majority of the population is educated.  Instead of blaming the government, Jansen challenged ordinary people to get involved in education through volunteering their time to tutor students – even just a couple hours a week.  Jansen called for an “army of volunteers” to tackle these issues.

Sandy took this message to heart, and began to look for opportunities to volunteer at a school.  In 2006 his daughter, Lucy Johnson, and Lauren Bras started a ministry in Addington, and they were looking for volunteers who could help Addington students with their homework after school.  After Lauren approached Sandy about volunteering with CAST at Addington, he began to come faithfully every week.

Addington Primary is a unique school in that many of the students are refugees from other countries in Africa.  They speak Swahili, French, and other local languages from their home countries.  Students often fall behind because they do not have basic English language skills, and their parents are unable to assist in their education because of the language barrier as well.  In addition, children are instructed in classes of 40 or more students, allowing little time for individual attention from teachers. The result is that many students do not know their alphabet or basic phonics.  The problem is further exacerbated by the fact that the school only began to offer Grade R two years ago, so many of the students lack any pre-primary education which normally provides the necessary foundation for basic language and literacy skills.

Instead of being intimidated by these many challenges, Sandy dived in with his students, helping groups of 8 to 10 students to complete their homework after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  During the past few months, CAST has changed Homework Help into a programme that addresses the unique needs of Addington students.  The new Literacy Programme uses material from Wordworks, an organisation that supports the early language and literacy learning of children from historically disadvantaged communities in South Africa.

A picture of Sandy drawn by one of his students

A picture of Sandy drawn by one of his students

Sandy enjoys the new Literacy Programme because it allows more one-on-one attention for students.  Each volunteer in the programme is paired with two students, allowing more focus on foundational language and literacy skills.  By working with only two children, Sandy believes you can more clearly see the progress and growth of students.

Sandy encourages retirees to get involved with the Literacy Programme because there is a need for volunteers every Tuesday and Thursday morning.  By giving a few hours a week to tutor two students, you can help tackle the problem of education in South Africa.  CAST provides training for Literacy Programme volunteers, and the Wordworks materials makes it easy to jump in and get started with the programme right away.  CAST also provides a library of books for volunteers to use with the students.

CAST’s Educational Assistance Programme aims to rescue the academic potential of learners through the Literacy Programme which will help them grasp key concepts, and reduce obstacles to future success.  However the Literacy Programme needs ordinary people that can become “an army of volunteers” to tackle the issues that hinder the potential of students.  If you are passionate about children and issues of education, please contact Murry, CAST’s Volunteer Coordinator at


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