Author Archives: Bridge-Admin

BRIDGE presents at the Knowledge Management South Africa (KMSA) Conference

BRIDGE is known for its knowledge management practices, in support of both our work with our communities of practice and with other project partners, and as a KM service provider. As part of our own growth as an organisation we are members of Knowledge Management South Africa, a society for knowledge management professionals which supports the research and development of knowledge management practices in both private and public sectors.

KMSA recently held the KMSA e-Imbizo Webinar Week, and BRIDGE’s knowledge manager Melissa King presented on ‘Supporting Communities of Practice through Knowledge Management’. Themes covered at the conference included:

  • – Evolve and sustain your KM programme
  • – Role of technology in KM
  • – Breaking down the barriers to knowledge sharing
  • – KM culture and change management.

The Imbizo hosted several international speakers (from various African countries, from the UK, Hong Kong and the US) as well as local speakers from the corporate sector, public sector government departments, and universities. BRIDGE was the only speaker from the local NGO sector.

Ideas about how knowledge is produced, shared, received and used were discussed across a number of contexts. These ranged from knowledge exchanges between those inside an organisation, the knowledge flow between organisations and other stakeholders, to knowledge sharing between countries. Contexts for the implementation of knowledge management systems and activities were varied. But with all these variations it was clear that certain key concepts around knowledge management – from the types of knowledge that exist (ranging from data to wisdom), to the tools needed to make knowledge accessible, to the notion of using knowledge management for applied action and change – are shared across contexts. Knowledge management is truly a cross-cutting need for all contexts and sectors.

Some key takeaways from the conference include the idea of knowledge management as change management; knowledge management as the foundation for informed decision-making; learning from experience and sharing best practice as the key to innovation; and the cost to an organisation of ‘lost knowledge’, with its corollary of Return on Investment in relation to good knowledge management practices.

The conference referenced the International Organisation for Standardization (ISO) knowledge management systems standard (ISO 30401:2018) which was registered in 2018, and other KM standards are also available. BRIDGE will certainly be watching the KMSA space, and growing towards these standards. To see the presentation, click here.

Joining forces: ECD and EGR Share lessons

In May the ECD CoP and the Early Grade Reading Community of Practice hosted a joint CoP for the first time. Covid-19 has disrupted our sense of normality; with this in mind, the purpose of this meeting was to look at how organisations are supporting caregivers and caregivers’ responsiveness. It was an opportunity to speak about what support CoP members need and what support can be offered. The presenters at the CoP were Kaley Le Mottee from the Ntataise Network as well as Vuyelwa Mbalekwa from Shine Literacy.


Ntataise is an independent not-for-profit organisation which was founded in 1980 and has for the past 40 years been instrumental in supporting the provision of quality ECD programmes in marginalised communities across South Africa.

During lockdown Ntataise has implemented a number of interventions. One of these is the dissemination of home learning activities. These consist of short video clips targeted at practitioners and their interaction with children. They have been repackaged into text for caregivers to explain how to use items found in the home for learning. These activities are shared through WhatsApp, the Ntataise network and social media. They include educational games with movement and play, so that children continue to have fun and learn through play. These activities also help parents connect with their children through play.

Ntataise typically has face-to-face workshops and is now having to make use of digital tools such as:
–  WhatsApp is being used as the primary communication platform. It is used to send video
clips etc., facilitate small group discussions, and to submit activities; more specifically,
trainers are able to monitor across groups and instantly respond. WhatsApp is also useful for
practitioners as they have access to the content and can go back at any time to read over it.

–  Google Meet is being used to introduce topics and have interactive conversations. It is good
for psychosocial support of practitioners as they connect with peers.

–  Google Forms is being used for monitoring (asking for feedback on activities) and to submit activities and host surveys.


Shine Literacy
The aim of Shine Literacy is to encourage a culture of reading by supporting schools to become hubs, creating reading opportunities for children and supporting families through the school and
surrounding community. Shine Literacy works with the teachers and the programme is volunteer
based. They have 1500 volunteers in 73 schools in the Eastern Cape, the Western Cape, KwaZulu-
Natal and Gauteng.

Shine Literacy has not been able to have access to the schools and has had to get permission from Principals in order to contact parents. Its Family Literacy Workshop has been reworked during lockdown so that resources are still available. Shine Literacy provides the following:

– A morning training session to prompt parental awareness. Parents are asked to think about what children are learning, how they are learning, and about the learning environment. The aim is to move parents away from projecting their own schooling and how they learned onto their children, and to take into account new ways of doing things. This session was initially for Grade R and Grade 1 parents, but has since been broadened to incorporate the whole Foundation Phase.

– Shine Literacy at times conducts paid-for workshops/staff development, covering the home/school link and the importance of constant communication with the school in support of the learners, and why literacy, reading and language matter. The methodologies for reading are shared reading/shared story time and paired reading. Everything is embedded in the Shine ethos so that the emotional “container” is kept for parents to realise that a conducive environment is a good start.

To access the resources shared and an in-depth account of the discussion, please see meeting highlights here.

Covid-19 challenges for ECD

BRIDGE has been involved in a number of activities at an individual level and in collaboration with others in the sector, particularly in the context of COVID-19. COVID-19 has presented challenges to a sector that has long been navigating workable solutions in the ultimate quest to see children receiving quality access to ECD services. COVID-19 has added undue pressure on the ECD sector by imposing more financial constraints on ECD operators because of the closures that had to take place and now the decreased flow in income after the official reopening.

BRIDGE has been involved in the following:

– Series of ECD CoPs (national and provincial) to discuss the reopening and what would be required in this process in terms of protocol etc. The conversations were then packaged as a position paper.

– BRIDGE formed part of the workstreams that were called on by the DSD to collaboratively prepare a framework for reopening.

– Through the BRIDGE Reference Group, BRIDGE has requested the DSD to kindly revive the Intersectoral Forum meeting in the spirit of ensuring that communication between civil society and government continues.

– Through CECDN and the steering committee of the Intersectoral forum, engagements with DSD continue around challenges facing the sector both in the context of Covid-19 and outside of this pandemic.

We recently held a CoP that tried to understand what has been happening on the ground since the official reopening. Unfortunately, a gloomy picture of confusion and weakening provision emerged. BRIDGE will continue to work with government and other stakeholders through various forums on appropriate solutions as communicated by the ECD CoP members.

Learner support Update Quarter 2 2020

The Maths and Science community of practice convened on 18 June 2020.  This stimulating virtual session saw the CoP members engaging with two presenters who are working with learners to promote online education.

Nonhlanhla Masina of the African School for Excellence shared lessons learnt while implementing remote teaching and learning of maths and science, including using the home as a learning environment. Ilyaas Amien of Tutonic, an online maths tuition and support service developed by university students, described their journey towards providing effective concept-based maths support to high school learners.

Post-school access

Covid-19 is not only posing risks and challenges to entrepreneurs and businesses but is creating opportunities as well. A key development has been the move towards greater digitization, even in non-technological contexts such as food, and amongst organizations and individuals who previously resisted it.

On 19 May 2020, BRIDGE hosted a discussion on the effects of Covid-19 by a group of young entrepreneurs and NPOs involved in youth entrepreneurial development.   The conversation explored some of the risks and challenges, as well as opportunities arising during this time. The convening stemmed from the series of community of practice meetings held during 2019 by BRIDGE’s Post-School Access community of practice, focusing on what young entrepreneurs need to know and have, if they are to create and run sustainable businesses.

Running online CoPs: what are we learning?

Due to the Covid-19 lockdown and the continuing prevalence of online meetings in preference to face-to-face meetings, we are all becoming accustomed to virtual engagements. But are we getting better at them, and are we getting the most out of them? How has online participation affected community of practice engagements, which are based on principles such as interactive participation, networking and collaboration? Do we hear all voices? AT BRIDGE we felt it was time to pause and reflect on these questions, and to this end we sent out a survey to people who had attended CoPs between April and mid-July 2020.

The survey covers thirteen community of practice online meetings (convened at both national and provincial levels) covering six of our CoPs (ECD, M&E, Early Grade Reading, Initial Teacher Education, Maths & Science, and the SAESC) held between 1 April and 3 July 2020. BRIDGE Principals CoPs are not included in this survey as they are closed CoPs and are of a different nature to open, multi-stakeholder CoPs. The questionnaire was sent out to 590 people, representing those who had RVSP’d to CoP invitations between April 2020 and July 2020. There were 39 respondents. The small pool of respondents, and the fact that they had attended different CoP meetings which vary greatly in nature and size, means that we must be cautious about drawing conclusions from the data received. However, respondents made a number of useful and insightful open-ended comments from which we can draw on as ‘lessons learned’ so far in this process.

Most of the questions related to how CoP members have experienced various features of our preferred platform Zoom, and invited comment on BRIDGE’s management and approach to online CoPs. A few key findings are shared here:

–  The preferred length of an online CoP is two hours.

–  Most people thought CoPs should be open to as many people as can log on, although there were a number of strong comments about the drawbacks of large CoPs (over 40 people).

–  The use of breakaway rooms for group discussion was generally seen as vital for active participation and engagement in alignment with CoP principles; it was stressed, however, that these need to be facilitated by prepared and pre-briefed participants.

–  There was strong sense of loss around the networking that has traditionally occurred in BRIDGE face-to-face CoPs; while group work can enable this to some degree, the personal connections made at CoP meetings are lacking.

–  There was general endorsement of how BRIDGE has grown in handling online CoP meetings, in particular in terms of the use of tool such as breakaway rooms and Jam Boards.

To read more about the survey and hear from CoP members, click here.

BRIDGE Celebrates 10 years of Collaboration

BRIDGE celebrated ten years of collaborative learning in education with over 100 BRIDGE friends (including community of practice members, funders and founders) in a multi-faceted event held at UJ’s School of Hospitality on 20th of September 2019. The afternoon included a review of the BRIDGE journey since its inception, messages of support from those who could not be there, and some personal reflections from CoP members on what their participation has meant to them. The LEAP 4 school choir gave us positive energy through song and movement. The more serious element of the day was a panel discussion on the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),  in which panellists reflected on the country’s progress towards achievement of these interrelated goals from their own educational contexts and perspectives.


To see Shafika Isaac’s presentation click here; to see Mary Metcalfe’s presentation click here.

One of our CoP members shared his experiences in the M&E Community of Practice:


“For me, it has been an affirming space where I can recognise something of myself in the other faces around the room. When I began my journey into M&E, it felt like I was walking alone, in the dark – but it was at the BRIDGE M&E CoP that I found others. Together, we kindled a fire. Together, we lit the darkness around us. Sometimes the faces around the fire shifted, but the breath from each of us kept the fire burning. I am grateful for that. We are grateful for BRIDGE.”

– Cullen Mackenzie, M&E CoP Member


BRIDGE staff hosted an exhibition of our knowledge products and CoP achievements, enabling some attendees to ‘cross the floor’ from their own specialised interest areas into understanding what BRIDGE does in all five of its focus areas. The celebration ended with lively conversations over food and drink.

Leading for Learning: Developing an Induction Programme for Newly Appointed School Leaders in South Africa

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) has signaled its intent to develop an induction programme for newly appointed school principals in South Africa. This is both timely and relevant given the importance of effective leadership in achieving the goals of school change and improvement. Induction, viewed within the broader paradigm of leadership development, is an important starting point for a personal and professional development journey that welcomes and orientates the newly appointed school leader into the institutional role and responsibilities of the position. The Principals Upfront Dialogue held on the 16thof May 2019 highlighted and explored the experience of newly appointed principals in leading and managing their institutions and how these experiences relate to their “readiness to lead.”

Dr Allistair Witten – Adjunct Professor at UCT – underscored the value of dialogues like Principals Upfront in allowing members to connect with and learn from practitioners in the field. He affirmed induction as a critical aspect in the professional development of principals. His presentation outlined the importance of induction and the elements that comprise an effective induction programme. In highlighting the South African context, he drew attention to the following five benefits for principals exposed to Induction programmes:

-Being orientated into the institutional role and responsibilities of leadership

-Understanding policy frameworks which translate into practices and routines, which in turn allow principals to achieve policy goals

-Developing skills, knowledge, and competencies that have practical applicability and are relevant to school contexts

-Building confidence to act decisively and build collective agency to address some of the challenges faced by schools

-Establishing networks of support to share effective practices, concerns, and ideas

There is a need for school leaders to develop knowledge, skills and competencies that have practical applicability and are relevant to school contexts. Allistair further noted the importance of collaboration among all educationists. An induction programme could present opportunities for principals to build networks of support to share effective practices, concerns, and ideas. “School leaders often work in isolated contexts”, Allistair explained, “but we want them to work with others, build their confidence to act decisively and build collective agency to address some of the challenges they face in schools.”


Opposing Monolingual Bias in Our Classrooms

Multilingualism is a critical part of South Africa’s diverse social fabric. This reality is enshrined in section 29 (2) of the Constitution which maintains that everyone has the right to receive education in the official language or languages of their choice in public education institutions where that education is reasonably practicable. Through this right, learners’ diversity and individuality are recognised, and the important goal of unlocking their potential fully realised. However, English – and in some contexts Afrikaans – remain the dominant modes of teaching, learning and business in this country. The questions of what multilingualism really means, how it can be realised, and how it might be celebrated as a resource rather than a problem formed the topics of discussion at BRIDGE’s first Joint Early Grade Reading (EGR) and Teacher Development (TD) Community of Practice (CoP) held on the 22nd May 2019.

UCT lecturer Xolisa Guzula presented on ‘Multiliteracies Pedagogy: Plurality of language or multilingualism and multimodality’. Xolisa critiqued the monolingual bias in South African education, particularly ‘anglonormativity’, which is the expectation that people will and should be proficient in English and are deficient – even deviant – if they are not. In ex-Model C schools it’s not just English but a particular variety of standard South African English which aligns with whiteness that is privileged. There is a contradiction/gap between the multilingual language practices, and performances of South African children (and adults) in everyday life, and the dominant monolingual orientation of curricula, language policy, assessments and what is enforced or desired in schools and classrooms.

Xolisa expounded on multiliteracies as a pedagogical approach developed by the New London Group. The approach maintains that pedagogy has to value cultural and linguistic differences of learners and develop an epistemology of linguistic and cultural pluralism (linguistic and cultural diversity as a norm). This in turn leads to a pedagogy of productive diversity which considers what diverse groups bring to a classroom as a resource for the design of lessons and as a resource for all learners in a classroom.

Multiliteracies debunk the concept of languages as pure, autonomous and bounded entities that shouldn’t be ‘contaminated’ with other languages. It rejects the myth that monolingualism, or a high level of proficiency in a single named language is the norm and that linguistic purity is good while ‘mixed’ languages are deficient.

The CoP also included the perspective of two Foundation Phase educators teaching in multilingual classrooms. Catherine Mlanjeni and Sarika Bagoo– Foundation Phase HODs from Actonville Primary School – discussed some of the challenges faced by teachers in bilingual/ multilingual schools and some of the solutions they’ve developed. Their joint presentation touched on the focus of monolingual education in university for pre-service teachers and the lack of awareness of linguistic diversity in most classrooms. Both teachers, as well as Xolisa, affirmed the importance and value of code switching, multi-modal teaching practices (learning styles can differ from one culture to the next) and peer-to-peer translation when teaching English to learners who aren’t first language English speakers. Leveraging digital tools such as multiliteracy resources online, and the oral storytelling abilities of community members were also mentioned as creative solutions to the problem of monolingual bias in South African education.

The focus on multilingualism also forms part of the broader project to decolonise education. If we are to take this movement seriously, decolonised education in South Africa must put African languages at the center of its teaching and learning project.

To access the Meeting Highlights from the joint CoP, click here.

Collaborating for Quality: The ECD Practitioner Quality Reflection Tool

The sharing of the practitioner version of the ECD Practitioner Quality Reflection Tool is the final chapter in a story of multi-stakeholder collaboration in ECD. The story began with a discussion on ‘What is quality in ECD?’. The actors in this collaboration were many. They include the BRIDGE national and provincial ECD communities of practice, the nine partner organisations and the practitioners who took part in the Quality Tool pilot project, key CoP members who gave input and support to BRIDGE during the development process, and the funders of the pilot and the development of the final version of the Tool.

As debates on what constitutes quality deepened, the impact of different contexts for ECD on understandings of quality took on a central role. It was for this reason that the CoP felt it important to gather views on quality from practitioners working in different contexts. Reflective practice could be used as both a means of collecting this information, and as a means of empowering practitioners to grow their own professional understanding of quality issues. Research has shown that reflective practice is generally considered to be an enabler of life-long learning, increased professional competence and enhanced service quality across a range of sectors.

Piloting of the Reflection Tool in 2016, recommendations from this process and subsequent refinements led to the development of the current version of the tool. The Tool is designed to be printed out and kept in a ring-binder file; this means that practitioners can build up this file as a resource, adding in their own written reflections, planning templates and any other resources they come across.

Participants at the ECD CoP meeting on 2nd April 2019 debate different applications of the ECD Practitioner Quality Reflection Tool

The ECD Practitioner Quality Reflection Tool can be downloaded from the BRIDGE website here. It is an Open Education Resource, and can be adapted for use with acknowledgement to BRIDGE.

We are very grateful to the funders who supported BRIDGE at different stages in the development of the Tool: