Academic Support is the ArtWorks for Youth program that has grown the most. While South Africa boasts a 72% graduation rate, the focus on the graduation rate is very misleading. Last year’s graduating class had more than twice the number of students when they were in first grade. The graduation rate says nothing about what students do once they finish high school. Last year in the Eastern Cape, only 12% of students finished with enough points that would make them eligible to enter a college or university.
Just over half of the students attending public schools in the Eastern Cape drop out of school prior to the start of high school. Some drop out because they lack funds to purchase a full uniform or to travel to and from school. Others are culled by school officials who suggest dropping out so that the school’s graduation rate can improve.
There are currently three separate Academic Support classes at ArtWorks for Youth. Our Literacy Program for students in grades 2 – 5 includes just over twenty students. We have a program for twenty students in grades 7-10 who struggle with writing and reading in English. Finally, we have a reading and writing class of twenty-five students from grades 7-11.
Our two older student groups are with us for up to four hours each day after school. We provide lessons in reading, writing, math, and Xhosa (their home language.) Students are expected to read two books a month from our library, as well as write one essay a week. While the standards of the South African curriculum are actually quite high, the schools our students attend do not follow the guidelines and they expect very little from students in the way of daily reading and writing.