PRAESA director Dr Carole Bloch has a background in teaching pre-school children and older children with literacy learning difficulties. Since 1992, when she joined PRAESA, she has worked to transform the way children learn to read and write by putting stories, meaning making and enjoyment at the centre of formal and non-formal learning. She set up an Early Literacy Unit in PRAESA and co-ordinated its work for many years. This included research into young children’s literacy and biliteracy learning in multilingual African settings, facilitating training for teachers and teacher trainers and the publication of several storybooks for children of all ages in many African languages.
In 2004, Carole initiated and ran the AU’s African Academy of Languages (ACALAN) core project, Stories Across Africa, a pan-African initiative to create common collections of stories for all African children to read in their mother tongues. She has served as an early literacy consultant in several African countries and has a PhD (cum laude) in early literacy in African settings from the Carl Ozietsky University in Germany.
She is founder and a trustee of The Little Hands Trust, which promotes and supports the development and use of children’s literature in South Africa. Carole, in her position as director of PRAESA, designed and co-initiated and led the first four years of the Nal’ibali national Reading-for-Enjoyment Campaign; she then co-founded the Nal’ibali Trust, serving as a trustee for the first year. She served on the SA PEN committee from 2015-2017, is on the Minister of Education’s Reading Advisory Committee, the PIRLS advisory committee, the SA IBBY Committee and is an elected a member of the IBBY International Executive Committee for 2016-2018.
In 2017, she was inducted into The Reading Hall of Fame. Carole is now concentrating on early literacy development and research from birth to six years of age, focusing with her colleagues on an approach called Storyplay, to ensure that adults facilitate appropriate early literacy opportunities for very young children. This involves her in guiding the implementation of an action research project in Philippi, “Exploring Early Childhood Literacy Education Through Story-Play”.
Nadia Lubowski is an early childhood specialist with a Master’s degree from the University of Cape Town. She has worked as a primary and preschool teacher, trained educational staff, and run community workshops. Aiming to provide access and empowerment to children and parents limited by social, political and economic circumstances, Nadia, daughter of the late Anton Lubowski,has been involved in setting up creative and far-reaching primary community educational projects in the Western Cape since 2006. Nadia developed and co-ordinated Nal’ibali’s Storyplay curriculum, arising from PRAESA’s story and meaning-based early biliteracy approach, as wellas her interest in philosophical play pedagogies. This took place when she co-ordinated the Ububele Story Schools Project, carried out by PRAESA and supported by Ackermans. The detail of a story and play-based early literacy approach was worked out with teachers and preschoolers in Belhar and Langa. She is currently implementing an action research project in Philippi, “Exploring Early Childhood Literacy Education Through Story-Play”.
Sive Mbolekwa is a Storyplay mentor at PRAESA. He is a literacy activist and storyteller who has worked and trained young people and teachers in early literacy strategies through storytelling. He started working in the townships of Port Elizabeth with a voluntary organisation called Unako CBM. As part of Unako, he received training on how to run reading clubs from Nal’ibali in 2012. In 2014, he began work for Axium Education in Zithulele, a rural area in Mqanduli near Coffee Bay on the Wild Coast. In 2016, he worked with his mentor Xolisa Guzula in her Stars of Tomorrow Literacy Club in Khayelitsha. It is here that he was trained in critical literacy strategies, before returning to Axium Education to curate a Literacy Festival for the Zithulele area. His career in early literacy was sparked by his experience in a township book club for adults run by a poet called Loyiso Rawana from Port Elizabeth. He wanted to share this culture of thinking critically about our social conditions with children. He therefore worked closely with activists in Port Elizabeth (with Unako CBM) to spark conversations about our everyday experiences as people who come from different contexts in South Africa, using a theatre-of-the-oppressed approach and working with a group called Unako Arts Wing.
Nolubabalo Anabel Mbotshwa is an early childhood language and literacy mentor who began her work at PRAESA as a literacy mentor with teachers andpre-schoolers in Belhar and Langa. She is currently mentoring practitioners in an action research project in Philippi, “Exploring Early Childhood Literacy Education Through Story-Play”. Nolubabalo studied Educare/Pre-school teaching at Cape College of Cape Town in 2000-2002, after which she spent some years in England as an au-pair and healthcare assistant. After obtaining a Diploma in Counselling and Communication at the South African College of Applied Psychology in 2008, Nolubabalo did some counselling at the Salesian Institute’s Learn to Live programme, Wittebome High School and Cape Town High School. She then volunteered with Shine, supporting children’s literacy and numeracy at St Agnes’ Primary School. Between 2011 and 2016, she worked as a Grade 1 teacher’s assistant at Sea Point Primary School.