Meet the 91-year-old retired teacher still changing children's lives

Marcia Orlin
Marcia Orlin

Although gaps still exist in the South African education system, there's some hope for transformation and work being done at grassroots by active citizens.

Citizens who put in the work and effort to improve their own communities and bring about social change.

One such citizen is Marcia Orlin, one of the longest standing volunteers in the Shine Literacy Hour Programme.

A true example of active citizenship, Marcia, a 91-year-old retired teacher has been volunteering at Prestwich Street Primary School for 11 years, and through her efforts has changed the trajectory of 43 children.

Passionate about education

Still passionate about education and children, Marcia remains committed to providing support to children in Foundation Phase classrooms.

“I was never interested in ordinary teaching. I have always wanted to teach children who had challenges learning,” Marcia told Parent24.

She previously worked for 15 years as a teacher at a school for autistic children.

“The children in the Shine Literacy Hour Programme have always been grateful for the individual attention they get from their learning partners," she said. "They appreciate the programme and you can see them improve in school." 

Ideal environment

This kind of volunteerism enables schools to be that ideal environment to nurture and to and promote the well-being of all children. 

When schools garner that kind of support and resources from the community, they are able to respond more effectively to the needs of the children, she says. 

Also read: Shine Literacy fulfills Pres. Ramaphosa’s hopes for SA education

The programme asks volunteers to share an hour of their time in a week, to provide children in Grades 2 and 3 with extra reading, writing and language support. The children she has supported have fond memories of her, and remain enthusiastic about reading and writing. 

This gives her enough time, every week, to volunteer in other projects and organisations to raise funds for children in need, Marcia explained.

“There is no reason to just sit and do nothing. Everybody has got something to offer, no matter how small or diverse it is,” she says. “With the little time you have, you can contribute to helping out someone else.”

Mentally stimulated

She strongly believes that one should always stay mentally stimulated telling us, "You cannot go from one day to the next without having any purpose." 

Marcia has 4 children, 9 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren. Some of her grandchildren have followed her teaching career path.

Her other interests include baking, pottery and ceramics.

Fantasy to imagine a world

Marcia urges others to get involved: “There is always something to volunteer for – a niche somewhere – to raise funds. For example, if children cannot read, read to them and let them have that fantasy to imagine a world.”

Currently, the Shine Literacy Hour Programme is run in 33 schools across four provinces – Western Cape, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng. The Programme reaches 1 920 children with 1 124 volunteers giving them individual support every week.

In 2018 the Shine Literacy Hour Programme served 2

Some of the students who enjoy individual support through the Shine programme. 

Compiled for Parent24 by Anneline Hlangani 

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