Like many educators during the Covid-19 school lockdown, Pamela Kantor, a teacher from a Johannesburg public school was extremely concerned that many of her students’ education was stalling, as they simply could not access online content.
Passionate about education as a means to uplift communities, Pam needed to do something. In a moment of inspiration, she posted a simple request on social media. “All I’m asking is for you to read a children’s book, record it on a WhatsApp message and send it to me. That way I’ll be able to send it on to the principals. It will only take a few minutes and you will be helping the kids so much. It will bring such joy to them knowing people in different communities are thinking of them.”
She received one story, and then another… and soon they were flooding in. The initial idea grew wings and became far more than a way to help her own students. Pamela was inundated with responses from South Africa and abroad. Fellow teachers, parents, students and even successful children’s authors were all eager to take part.
This is her story
My name is Pamela Kantor. I am mother to three beautiful children and I’m a very passionate teacher. I believe that in this world, we need to be humble and kind at all times and try to make a difference wherever we can. I truly believe no action of kindness is ever too small.
I am very blessed to work at a public school in Johannesburg that has more than 1000 learners. The learners in our school are mostly from the township of Alexandra and come from underprivileged backgrounds.
Lockdown has had such a disparate impact on education, depending on learners’ backgrounds and access to online learning. Many students from disadvantaged homes did not have the resources to transition to online learning and were completely cut off from learning anything at this time. I felt compelled to do something to help my learners.
I came up with an idea and posted on Facebook. I simply asked for people to record themselves reading children’s books which I could forward to the parents of the learners. In this way we would ensure the students knew they had not been forgotten. It would help to keep them engaged, learning and using their imaginations.
This quickly grew far beyond my own class, with schools and communities around South Africa asking if they could receive stories too. Heart-warming responses from students have validated the need for such a programme.
Read For Hope has become a valuable education initiative that I am hoping continues to grow, with extended initiatives and reach. I am so excited to see the heights that collaborative education can reach, not just on our unique local stage but on the international stage as well.
I will continue to strive to make a difference in the lives of learners who currently do not have access to online learning. As a South African, the idea of an inclusive society and culture is one that I hold dear. My hope is that this small initiative illustrates and inspires others to this South African ethos.
If you have time, please WhatsApp a story, and tell us a bit about yourself as a family, a school class or a student; and what reading these stories has meant to you. As a community initiative I would love to build relationships between all the people involved. You can read more about Read for Hope at: www.facebook.com/ReadforhopeSA.
I have also started a new initiative, asking people to donate gently-worn second-hand bras. I have noticed that Covid has put more pressure on parents, where putting food on the table is a greater need than buying what is, for some, a luxury item. Covid has taken so much from less fortunate communities. I would like to support girl-children, offering some dignity as they develop and mature into young women.
Contact email@example.com if you can help with either initiative.
Pamela Kantor is the founder and creator of Read for Hope and a Mensch Network Member of Jewish Social Change NGO, Mensch. www.mensch.org.za
• Published in the PDF edition of the December 2021/January 2022 issue – Click here to get it.
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