By Carol Cashion, South Africa Partners 


The plan for the Sifunda Ngokuthetha project is to introduce talking points in all public waiting spaces - turning them into engaging spaces. We dubbed our first phase of action as Language in the Supermarket and phase two saw us morphing into Language in the Clinic.

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By Mpho Plaatjie, Education Programme Officer, Masibumbane Development Organisation

After looking at results from our first impact assessment, the Sifunda Ngokuthetha project team made some adjustments to our approach and asked the evaluators to return for a second round of observations.  We identified challenges around language use and the selection of items featured in the signage.  Signs were redesigned to feature both isiXhosa and English, and items such as porridge and white meal/flour were added in addition to the fruit, vegetable, and bakery sections. 

In round one we found that our signage faced competition from a “store birthday” campaign that may have created too many distractions to allow the conversation-prompting signs to be noticed, and the observations were done during an extremely busy time in the store.

The second round took off well and with lot of enthusiasm from the observers.  The environment and atmosphere was more relaxed, and continued negotiations with the store manager helped with this.

When the team arrived, the store was a bit quiet, but the store manager had forewarned us about that and we were not disappointed.  On the positive side the observers had a chance to see and hear more fully what was going on between caregivers and children. The observers were scattered around the store in the areas where we had placed the signs, and changed their observing positions in intervals, making customers less curious or suspicious about their presence in the store. Children up to age 9 were observed and we began to see children initiating conversation in response to the signs prompts.

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supermarket spinachOur research partners from the University of Fort Hare recently conducted a baseline observational assessment of caregiver/child pairs at the pilot supermarket site in Duncan Village. After observing the interactions of over 50 pairs, our signs were mounted in the bakery and vegetable sections of the market, and the team then returned for the follow-up observations that will generate data to show us whether or not the presence of the conversation-prompting signs increases the number and quality of interactions.

While we await the analysis of this data and begin planning for the second phase of the project in local health clinics, we can’t help but look down the road and begin to ask a new set of questions. We invite readers to weigh in with responses, ideas and questions of their own! Please share your thoughts with us.

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Supermarket lead(By Glynnis Martin, director of the Psychological Services Centres at the University of Fort Hare, East London).

The evaluation team from the University of Fort Hare (Psychological Services Centre) has recently completed the first phase of evaluating  the “Sifunda Ngokuthetha” project. The study aims to evaluate the impact of a language intervention that encourages parent-child interaction, by placing signs that encourage dialogue between them, within a supermarket. It forms part of an overall evaluation of similar interventions in different settings within a low socio-economic context within South Africa. 

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SunWe are happy to announce that our project now has an official name, Sifunda Ngokuthetha (We Learn By Talking Together). Our task this month was to design the signage for Phase One, the supermarket. The kind of enriched caregiver/child interactions we hope to promote can – and should! – be initiated by either a child or an adult. We worked to design appealing signs that will catch the attention of both.

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