Let tech-love rule!

Let tech-love rule!

The exciting thing about working for an organisation that is for youth and by youth is that you can experiment with technology and come up with innovative ways to make machines work for your benefit.

IkamvaYouth has been working on IkamvaYouth-in-a-box which aims to translate the experiences that many Ikamvanites have collected over the years into an information pack. This information pack seeks to turn this information into knowledge that will give Ikamvanites the power to drive the learning revolution. 

This super high tech system will enable us to store information in a central database that will make all the information accessible to those who need it. Since we will be working on a model that is based on Open Source, all our templates for reporting financially, programmatically and operationally will be available to everyone who wants to use it. That translates to 1 goal for sharing and 0 for selfishness with information!

An important topic of discussion this afternoon was on tutor recruitment and retention. The different branches have had similar experiences with tutors not staying with the organisation, which has resulted in a lack of continuity with the relationship that tutors have with learners. Possible solutions to this challenged were proposed by various Ikamavanites including:

* introducing tutors to the vision of Ikamva so that they can have the holistic view that the rest of us have of the programme

* getting tutors to tell us what their expectations of Ikamva are so that we can better meet them

* Encourage strong tutor/ learner relationships so that tutors can see their relationship as being primarily with the learners, who we all seek to serve, rather than just pleasing members of the organisation. This means tutors should see themselves as being contracted to the learners rather than Ikamva. Ikamva is there to facilitate the relationship between tutors and the learners who benefit from the knowledge that these young people bring with them.

* letting tutors know that they are valued and showing appreciation by organising social activities that will also strengthen the bond between tutors and give them an avenue to get to know each other better (this includes management!)

* recommendation letters will also be written for tutors who have shown commitment to the organisation  

* Each branch is to host a Strategic Planning Weekend that includes tutors and volunteers so that they can contribute ideas to the work to be done. This also ensures that tutors understand that they OWN Ikamva in the same way that the learners also own the organisation. 

Phillip Mcelu, a former learner and committed volunteer from the Makhaza branch said, “[volunteering has helped me through what I have learned. Knowing that learners look up to me and knowing what I do for them helps them, makes me feel good”. 

Therefore we need to retain as many tutors as possible and make sure that they also have gains for the precious time and knowledge that they give for free to committed learners with big dreams. Ikamva is currently looking at ways of incentivising these selfless young people for their contributions. Watch this space…

SPW – We are marching in the light of money!! $

Cash-flow, budgets, slips, invoices, quotes, vouchers,… were our daily concern. And now will be yours too!!

We started the day by looking at the internal controls to help us align objectives and understand the importance of good financial management. It also facilitated discussions around the financial activities of IY which led us to draw up our branch specific budgets for 2011.

Our financial director, Blou Leask, equiped the team with strategies on tracking our inflows and outflows by helping us to understand the recording process. This latter ensures proper financial reporting that helps us to minimise errors and have a clear communication with our partners, funders, and members.

 

Delegation of Authority

Delegation of Authority

The Board delegates authority to the Executive and Financial Directors for the day-to-day running of the organisation at a National level. They then delegate authority to Branch Directors and BranchCom at a Branch level for certain decisions/activities such as:

 – Banking/signatories

 

 – Authorising specific expenses

 – Handling incoming cash and cheques

 – Access to petty cash

 – Checking and authorising accounting records

 – Signing legal undertakings (eg Memorandums of Understanding – MoU)

 

We are now ready to take the bull by its horns and deliver what is due to our learners in financial transparency!

WOZA DAY DAY 3…

 

Nombu & Nico

Learner progress based on attendance

Learner progress based on attendance

 

It would be trite to state that South Africa’s education system needs an overhaul. Although Kwazulu Natal was the only province to improve on its matric results in 2009, on a closer look, the result is still very bleak for black learners from under performing township schools. According to a study published by the South African Institute of Race Relations, of the 132 176 KZN learners who sat for the National Senior Certificate in 2009, 56% of black learners passed, while 85% of these learners were from former Model C schools. This is worrying as the vast majority of black learners in the province attend township and rural schools. This means that most black learners in the province failed their exams in a year when the province improved its matric pass rate from the previous year.  

In 2008, IkamvaYouth KZN admitted 16 grade 10 learners from Mayville Secondary School in Cato Crest into its supplementary tutoring programme. By the beginning of 2010, 10 of these learners, now in grade 12, still remained with the organisation. In the years that these learners had been members of IkamvaYouth, they had become disciplined, attending Saturday School for 4 hours each week, holding extra classes after school for four days a week, two days with volunteers from IkamvaYouth and the other two days on their own. They also attended Winter and Summer School during the school holidays. The extra time and efforts put into their work became evident with their school marks improving and the learners themselves being able to see the difference that extra hours of work outside regular school hours made to their understanding and performance of their school work.

Unfortunately early in the second school term of 2010, these learners were forced to stop attending IkamvaYouth classes for compulsory Saturday School classes offered by the school. As such these learners have not been part of IkamvaYouth since then because of IkamvaYouth’s strict policy on good attendance for learners to continue with the programme. The learners have to attend the school’s Saturday School programme because their tests are set for these Saturdays.

During the early months of this year, IkamvaYouth KZN strengthened its relationship with the Durban University of Technology and as part of the agreement; IkamvaYouth was to take over DUT’s outreach project with Tholulwazi Secondary School in Lower Molweni. DUT had been coordinating a Saturday School programme with grade 12 learners from this school for a number of years. DUT’s Saturday School programme had students from the Faculty of Applied Sciences transported to the school to help the learners with their maths. DUT was attracted by IkamvaYouth’s holistic and comprehensive programme and a relationship was formalised. As Ikamva does not accept grade twelve learners if they have not attended the programme for a minimum of 2 years, an exception was made in this instance for the grade 12 learners from Tholulwazi, as well as a new group of grade 11s and 10s who will then move up within the programme.

What has become evident in the two groups of grade 12 learners is the difference in achievement levels. While learners from both schools have to deal with similar circumstances, the learners from Mayville Secondary School have far better marks than their counterparts from Tholulwazi in a comparison of their June examination results. According to the learners, this is because of the discipline, commitment and sense of initiative that they learned from their two years attending the IkamvaYouth programme.

“Even though we are not attending Ikamva anymore, we still work the same way as with Ikamva. We stay after school until late where we help each other, especially with Maths, Physics and Accounting, even though we don’t have anyone else to help us”, said Njabulo Khuzwayo, one of the grade 12 learners from Mayville Secondary School.

The learners from Tholulwazi, however, are not only struggling with comprehension of their school subjects, with the exception of IsiZulu Home Language, but are also far less confident of their prospects at the end of the year.

The biggest difference in the average marks of these learners is in Maths, where the average marks for Mayville Secondary School learners is 77%, while the Tholulwazi learners averaged 13%.

Considering that the learners from these two schools come from schools that have to deal with similar academic problems which lead to low learner pass rates, the learners that have been with IkamvaYouth for two years demonstrate that the extra tuition they received through the programme has made a difference in their academic achievements.

SPW – let’s beef it UP!

SPW – let’s beef it UP!

So. What do you get when you take 13 committed Ikamvanites from 3 provinces, bundle them into trains, planes and automobiles and ship them all the way to Kleinmond’s beautiful Grail Centre for a jam-packed week’s worth of crystalizing the big picture vision for our future? Well, if Day 1 is anything to go by … a whole LOT of fun and some serious hard work.

Amid a series of challenges, we all eventually arrived at the quaint coastal village with just enough energy to enjoy a special ‘Lungelo dinner’ before practically passing out to the sound of pine trees swaying above. Then it was up early and to work! We started out getting know the group better – in the modern NGO world of keeping costs low and mastering efficiencies, most of us have only ever met ‘virtually’ via Skype. Getting to know who we are, why we joined IkamvaYouth (for the ‘new’ knights) or why we are still with IY and sharing our skills and talents, we then looked at our expectations for the week. 

 Let me share a few of these with you now:

– The structure of IkamvaYouth and our channels of support

– Consolidating where we are and what we are doing well so we can build our vision for the future 

 – the Financial Matters of resources, processes, internal controls, budgets and reporting (roll on tomorrow!)

– Addressing learner, tutor and branch challenges using the pooled knowledge and experience of Ikamvanites from 5 National branches


We got right in and delved into the ‘structure’ of IY – now and where we want to be in the future. As Jo (Ivory Park, Branch Coordinator) said “we fell asleep and dreamed a dream…” which led us to some inspiring and creative organograms that better represent the kind of organisation IY is. And at the core of it is all are our LEARNERS!

[youtube]h-QGUSoIJ5I[/youtube]

We looked at working with people as opposed to working ‘for’ people – that we are accountable to each other as part of a team  – with Andrew (Gauteng Director) drawing an interesting analogy with a team sport – where you need team members, a captain, the infrastructure of field and a referee to make sure we are playing by the rules (especially when you are trying to get a stick on the ground. And when we are all on the same team, working towards a common goal, we need to communicate and the choose the words we use with care. 

 

 Another very important point that came out of our discussions and brainstorming is how our IY values need to be at the core of everything we do – and these encompass the entire organisation – from learners to BranchCom, staff, tutors and our Board. EVERYONE. And just to remind you briefly what they are: 

          By youth, for youth

          Equality

          Integrity

          Thoughtfulness

          Transparency & Openness

          Diversity

          Commitment

          Pay-it-forward

          Collaborate

 

From there, we looked at the different roles and responsibilities of the various stakeholders – learners, tutors, BranchCom, NatCom and the Board. And after that, it was a trip to the beach for a swim (our brave visitor from up north, Jo) and time to look at our personal roles and Key Performance Indicators. Yes, ma…we are all grown up!

our chef and ex learner, Lungelo

Which brings us to where we are right now. After an award-winning dinner from our inhouse Table Bay chef, some of us are already in bed and dreaming of the bright future we have ahead us, others are working on their studies, forging friendships that will last a lifetime and then there are those of us who are busy blogging tonight and preparing to present tomorrow. Watch this space: there’s bound to be a Survivor – Finance Training update tomorrow… 

At what price?

If you would like to read IkamvaYouth’s official response to the public servant’s strike then click here – because this isn’t it. This is, instead, some personal reflections with some mixed-animal-based-metaphors on the current schooling situation that may or may not reflect IkamvaYouth’s position.

Lets start with the facts. There are 30 000 schools in South Africa. 1 500 are top schools. 4 500 are ok. And 24 000 are dysfunctional. If you had the unhappy misfortune of attending this last category of school you would quite literally struggle to work out that this means 80% of our schools are not providing an education fit for learners to face a future filled with hope.

So how bad is it really? Well, our Grade 10 average for Maths at IkamvaYouth’s Ebony Park branch is 28% and our Grade 11 average is 29% – and these are learners who put in extra effort to attend supplementary classes. Who knows what the real performance levels are of those learners who are simply going through the motions? In all likelihood we’ll never know because each year the schools tend to “encourage” Grade 11s who are likely to fail not to return for Matric as this will reflect badly on the school’s final results. So, as bad as the matric results are each year, the reality is actually much worse.

Then, consider this: in the last 3 years, we have added R100 billion to the public sector wage bill of which a hefty chunk goes to teachers and this is even before we include the additional R30 billion+ required to foot the current strike demands. Now I’m not sure about you but the last time I walked into the shop and bought something for R100 billion I had pretty high expectations of what I would get in return. And so the elephant in room that everyone seems to be ignoring is what return have we received from the previous increase in salaries?

The answer is surprisingly simple: the return is negative. Over the past few years, the matric pass rate has consistently declined and, if we allow some anecdotal evidence, any IkamvaYouth tutor will contend that the gaps in understanding are actually getting bigger not smaller. So who’s to blame?

The answer  to this question is a lot more complicated and the three power brokers (i.e. the unions, teachers and government) each have a lot to answer for. It is surely self evident that the union insistence that union meetings be allowed to take place during school teaching hours and an outright refusal to allow any form of performance management or teacher accountability is problematic. The truth is that most people would support an increase in teacher salaries (and a substantial one at that) and for my mind we shouldn’t stop at 8.6% if we know that the outcome is going to be an increase in the number of learners who access meaningful post-school opportunities. I mean, double the teacher salaries if that means more people can engage productively in the main stream economy but its a big IF. Sadly though, a sizeable number of the teachers themselves are simply not fit to teach and don’t deserve to be paid at all (never mind an increase) – many regard teaching as standing at the front of the class and reading from a textbook and once this is done they are actively disengaged (or at times openly disruptive). This is only further complicated by a government that appears fairly clueless as to how to fix this and it hasn’t helped that they have lost any moral high ground through dubious enrichment schemes to connected individuals and by splurging on unnecessary items like luxury cars, overseas trips and accommodation all the while asking everyone else to tighten their belts.

BUT this is all actually a distraction. The real problem is that the unions, teachers and government officials are relentlessly flogging a dead horse. The amount of time, energy and resources directed at this lifeless creature is phenomenal. In fact, this particular dead horse is more of a dead donkey given its less than impressive history as bantu education and the dubious transition through various forms over the past 16 years. We are so busy beating the OBE out of this poor thing that we haven’t realised it stopped breathing long ago. 

Now if you want proof of this then proof will be provided by the startling results at the end of this year. We will notice (I predict) that the 2010 matric results will remain fairly constant with only minor movements up or down. For my mind this should be enough to convince everybody out of their denial. The schooling system is basically so stuffed that a 3 week strike by teachers a month before the final exams (meaning that the vast majority of learners will go into these exams thoroughly unprepared) will barely register on the final results. The good schools will continue to produce good results and the rubbish schools will once more produce the equivalent of a 12 year warehousing process for learners who at least managed to stay in school  – which is just about all they will be able to take with them from this process.

So, if its true then that the voice of the unions is far too narrow and the voice of government is far too compromised then what’s the solution? The solution is to locate the missing voice in this whole commotion that is distressingly conspicuous by its absence. We have to ask: where is the voice of learner? where is the voice of the parent? where is the voice of those who stand by those who bear the brunt of this dysfunctionality? 

I’ve been listening for a while and besides from some occasional missives from Equal Education it’s a wilderness out there. We have to fix this. How do we do this? I’m hoping you might have some ideas (please comment below). The key question for me is how  we re-orientate this discussion to start from the basis of the learner as the most important element of this whole process? I honestly don’t think we can do this without a REVOLUTION and its a revolution that will need to be led by learners and parents. So to the learners and the parents… where are you?