Engaging Education Leaders to Work Together As One

Engaging Education Leaders to Work Together As One

I was very honoured to be invited by Capitec Bank and Argo Publishers to participate in a panel discussion together with some amazing women who’re doing extraordinary work in education. On 4th July we met at the Sandton Convention centre to discuss how to really make a difference to the learners in our schools, by sharing, combining and collaborating across all the different systems to make a systemic impact. My fellow panelists were:

The minutes of our discussion are available here

The conversation was a great opportunity to reflect on the power of collaboration, and to gain a better understanding of effective ways in which to collaborate. I shared some of the experiences IkamvaYouth and Capitec have had in working together towards common goals. 

IkamvaYouth was initially entirely run and funded by volunteers, and then our early years were funded mostly by foundations; many of which continue to support our work years on. In the past 2-3 years, corporate south Africa has begun to take notice of our work, as the people who come through our program are the kinds of people they want to hire. In addition to being academic achievers, ikamvanites live the values of giving back/paying-it-forward, and have gained valuable work experience through being branchcom members.

These partnerships provide huge scope for innovative collaboration beyond funding, and in addition to multi-year financial support, Capitec is assisting IkamvaYouth in the following ways:

* Programme delivery

Capitec staff have enthusiastically become involved in working directly with our learners. During the recent winter schools, they held financial literacy training programmes for all the Western Cape branches, and will be participating in the upcoming Careers Indaba.

* Measuring impact

The realiability of learners’ school reports at some schools can be problematic, and accessing this data is often challenging (although it’s illegal to withhold school reports due to unpaid school fees, many schools continue to do so). It’s thus quite tricky to know how our learners are doing until they write the national exams. Capitec has stepped in to address this challenge by opening up the assessments they use for recruitment, which measure literacy, numeracy and problem-solving abilities. 

* Enabling access to opportunities 

Capitec has a progressive policy whereby they hire people from the communities where their branches are. As they’re bringing banking to under-served communities which are typically under-resourced, they’re struggling to find prospective employees who’re sufficiently numerate and literate. 

One of our Makhaza tutors, Unathi Smile, wrote the Capitec assessments and made it all the way through to becoming recruited! Capitec has also awarded bursaries to cover grade 10s’ school fees at IkamvaYouth’s feeder schools.

* Infrastructure support

As Capitec upgrades its computer equipment, they’ve set about refurbishing and delivering them to IkamvaYouth branches to enable the establishment of new labs and expansion of existing ones.

* Strategic support:

Capitec has scaled a simple, smart solution to reach communities in need. Sbusiso Khumalo has joined IkamvaYouth’s board of directors, and is providing advice and guidance to enable us to scale and meet the demand for our services while still maintaining our track record of results.

These are just some of the examples where smart, easy collaboration leads to greatly enhanced reach and impact. The challenges presented by the crisis in education are far too large and looming for one organisation, company or even Government Department to overcome alone. A large-scale collaborative effort is called for, and IkamvaYouth is greatly appreciative of the combined efforts of our donors and partners which are making great strides and changing lives.  

Andrew moves on to grow more

Andrew moves on to grow more

The last day of winter school for the Ebony and Ivory Park branches was filled with mixed emotions. We were sad about the end of winter school, uplifted by the amazing contributions at the talent show, and overwhelmed by a rather daunting part of the programme: “Andrew’s Farewell”. Andrew has been a key ikamvanite since 2009 and his contribution has been so significant that it’s really rather impossible to say goodbye. We have this saying “once an ikamvanite, always an ikamvanite”, and so, rather than bidding Andrew farewell, we spent some time thanking and celebrating him. 

Andrew and I first met in 2008, when he became interested in our Operation Fikelela curriculum and its potential use for Siyakhula. He was interested in the IY model, decided to pilot it, and then founded IkamvaYouth Gauteng in 2009. His selfless commitment to realising his vision for the Ebony Park community has been relentless; he has been at every single Saturday tutoring session for three and a half years, and has built not only two branches in Gauteng, but played a key role on natcom, informing who we are and how we do things, and enabling us to become an organisation with a national footprint. 

Together with the many learners, tutors and supporters whose efforts he’s inspired and coordinated along the way, Andrew has made an incredible impact. In 2011, the Ebony Park branch achieved a 94% pass rate and 100% post school placement, with 45% at universities, and last year they reached a 100% pass rate and 83% access to tertiary. 

Not only has Andrew’s work fundamentally changed the lives of the people he’s worked with, but he has established something that will keep on changing many lives. The individuals who were learners during Andrews time will become the tutors who will support more learners to reach similar heights. 

But this work is not easy, and it’s this, even more than the outcomes that I want to thank Andrew for. Andrew has essentially been volunteering for IkamvaYouth all of this time. He has a full-time job running his own NGO, and has sacrificed massive amounts to create this beautiful home for all of us. And he even managed to study and win awards in addition to his two full time jobs! He has sweated the small stuff: filling out attendance, capturing data, making sandwiches and dealing with the un-fun aspects of this work. And he’s also been a visionary leader who’s inspired hundreds of people to change the world. 

So I’m not going to say farewell. I know that our organisations will continue to collaborate and that ultimately we are still working together towards the same goal:

The fact that 2 million of the 2.8 million South Africans Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEETS) haven’t passed matric tells us something about how to fix this problem. What IkamvaYouth and Siyakhula are working towards is ensuring that young South Africans don’t become NEETS but rather IETS. (“Iets” means “something” in Afrikaans.) 

So what IkamvaYouth and SEF and everyone in that room on the last day of winter school, led by Andrew, is doing, is ensuring that ikamvanites become iets; become something. Ikamvanites become something so great that very soon they can in turn help other learners to become something. And what ikamvanites are going to become and are becoming already, are the leaders of the country. Because the generations before us do not know how to fix this problem. The education crisis is so huge and so massive that they are scared by it. But we do know how to fix it. And instead of wringing our hands and talking about how we need to work together to fix things, we’re getting on with it. 

That’s what Andrews been doing for the last 4 years, and, through SEF, is going to continue doing for the next many years, and so this isn’t a goodbye but a huge thank you. For your leadership, your volunteerism, your inspiration, your selflessness, for challenging us, for pushing us, and for sharing all you know with this amazing team of people who will continue with the amazing work you started. 

Mandela Day -67 Minutes

Mandela Day -67 Minutes

I have always loved giving back and helping out wherever and whenever I can, so when I saw the opportunity to give back on Mandela day via “Cheesekids for humanity” (An NGO founded by the philanthropist – Shaka Sisulu) I immediately got excited and registered on their website.

I wasn’t alone in this as I was accompanied by my dear friend and Umlazi tutor Zandile “Dizzy” Dlamini. The giving back was initially scheduled for the 15th of July and due to weather conditions in Johannesburg and Cape Town at that time it couldn’t happen, (of course Durban was sunny and bright as usual). The date was then postponed to the 29th of July with hope that the weather would not be as gloomy as it was for the past two weeks. The 29th of July came and sadly the turn out wasn’t that great as we all had anticipated, assumingly everyone was “over” the Mandela day spirit however that didn’t stop us from our mission to make a change.

Each cheeesekid would be allocated to one of the surrounding townships of Durban which were (Marianhill, KwaMashu, and KwaNyuswa). We found ourselves in Marianhill at the Jabulani Self-Help Centre. The Jabulani Self-Help Centre provides help through self-help projects and support for disadvantaged women and their children. The centre was founded in 1988 by Sister Macro Gneis with help from the missionaries in the surrounding areas. Our task for the day was painting and brightening up the recreational rooms, halls and activity rooms the kids use at the centre.

Interestingly enough Marianhill is the place I grew up in for most of my childhood and were Zandile’s family grew up in and this was very humbling which reaffirms that nothing happens by chance. It was a really gratifying experience and hope that everyone doesn’t wait for days such as Mandela day to give back, making that small difference in just ones person’s life is a huge difference itself. And at IY we do that all day and every day.

Cheryl Nzama


I’m a Cheesekid, have been for the past year. I joined Cheesekids last year in July just before Nelson Mandela Day, soon after encouraged my friends to join in too. Being a Volunteer means a lot to me because it means I am able to make a difference in someones life which is something rare these days, a lot of people are only concerned about themselves and how they will benefit and are less caring about the needy and less fortunate. I believe in giving without expecting anything back and taking with appreciation.

This year Cheesekids has had a few charity events, the latest one being the Nelson Mandela Day Revolution which I took part in and had fun, although there were a lot of disappointments with attendence from my usual Cheesekids crowd, it was lovely experiencing something new with new people. Painting the buildings at Jabulani Self-Help Centre was rewarding for me and those who use the centre because I had fun while giving back to a community my family grew up in and those who use the centre get to have a welcoming place that adds colour and hope into their lives .

Zandile ‘Dizzy’ Dlamini

Masi Branch Learners Make Their Mark!

By Charmaine Gxekwa, Lindokulhe Ntombana, Aphiwe Tukani and Phumza Kibi



We wanted to gain knowledge and improve our skills by interacting and learning from other people. We wanted to get to know other people and their backgrounds. It was mostly about us adapting to other environments and working together towards a common goal, trying to change our environment as the youth.


We learnt how to work as a team and most importantly that everyone plays a role in the team. We discovered who we really are and that everyone matters. We learnt to never underestimate people before you really know them and never let anyone tell you what to do when you know you’re capable of more. We also created friendships with different people from different backgrounds. We now have the knowledge of how one can change their environment matter how small the change is, it makes a difference at the end of the day it all matters.



We are going to go back to our communities and identify a passion, major concern or problem that we  to have and try to improve or change it .We are going to carry out our own projects as the youth and try to make a change, for we are the future leaders. Anything is possible and we intend to prove that. We want to create a movement, to create a better world for the future generation. We want to be the change we want to see in the world. We want to run a project that will help and inspire the community or  change someone’s life. We intend on making a huge difference.

Visit the ENKE website: www.enke.co.za

Telling My Story

Telling My Story

Telling my Story

Time really flies, Its seems like yesterday that I was sitting at the library doing my school work when I meet Joy, Susie, Makhosi and other Ikamvanites tutors.

I started attending IkamvaYouth in 2004 when I was in Grade 11; the year IkamvaYouth was official registered. Ever since then I have been part of the IkamvaYouth family. I joined this amazing organisation because I needed help with my subjects and I wanted to improve my results in order to become eligible to access tertiary studies. I attended high school at Manyano High School around Khayelitsha. At that time I was doing grade 11 and I knew that I needed help to improve my results but I didn’t have money to pay for extra classes. I spent most of my time after school at the library. After joining the IkamvaYouth my results increased, at the end of 2004 I was the top accounting learner at Manyano High School.


In 2005, I came back to IkamvaYouth as a grade 12 learner and continued to work hard on raising my results. 2005 was the difficult year for me. In this year I had to work hard because it was my last year in high school. Before Joining IkamvaYouth university was not something I would ever consider. I knew it very well my family would not be able to afford university tuition. At IkamvaYouth tutors provided us with the pack of information about tuition, loans and bursaries that one can get. They even helped with application money for me and the other learners that needed help.

Growing up in a township is not easy. At a young age you face many challenges, such as peer pressure. You find out some people hate the fact that you go to the library and study. Khayelitsha is one of the townships that struggles most with high rate of crime, HIV/AIDS, dropout at school, low pass rate in Matric, poverty and drug abuse. When you are young, you have to face all of these things. But it’s all about making the right choices. For me I made the right choice by choosing school. I told myself that I wanted to be the role model and be something out of nothing.

I matriculated in 2005 as the dux scholar top most performing student in Manyano High School. I was the top learner at Manyano High school in the following subjects: Mathematics, Accounting, Business and Economics!

I successfully applied at University of the Western Cape (UWC), Tertiary School in Business Administration (Tsiba) and University of Cape Town, with the 1st choice of Bcom General and Bcom Accounting at UCT. I was so excited when I received my provisional accepted letter from University of the Western Cape. The sad part came when I found out that I have to pay upfront payment R4300 as the registration fee. I realised that I had only one option to work hard and get better results so that I could be eligible to get bursary.

On the 28th of December 2005 I got a phone call from my class teacher telling me that I passed. I was in the Eastern Cape that time. I was so excited, but at the same time worried. I was worried about what would happen in the following year because I didn’t have funds for the registration fee.

The following January, I remember I was with Joy and other two learners who were also accepted at University of the Western Cape, none of us had money to pay the registration fee. We were trying to get assistance from the financial aid office and the people were not helping. We moved up and down in long queues NO one was helping and no one was willing to give us registration fees even though we had good results. Joy finally had enough when we got into the financial aid office. She told the lady that was in charge that we not leaving the office until we got help. We showed them our acceptance letter and our good matric results. Then we all seat on the floor since there were no chairs *ha ha ha* After a while, a lady left and came back with 3 forms to fill out. We were told that our registration had been cleared then we can go and register.

That same year I realised that I had to give back to my community. I returned to IkamvaYouth as a tutor. I was tutoring Accounting, Business Economics (Business studies now) and Economics. I was also involved in the branch committee. Giving back to my community as of the things that kept me motivated and working hard in life.

In 2007 I joined another project called Brawam-sisiwam mentoring programme at the University of the Western Cape. I was a mentor to 3 grade 9 learners from Masithembe high School in Phillipi. While I was tutoring at IkamvaYouth I was also a tutor for UWC’s SRC winter classes held in 2006. 

I remained a committed volunteer at the IkamvaYouth branch; I also served as the head of the Career Guidance committee. While I was studying I also managed to find time to work part-time as senior computer lab assistance at the University of the Western Cape in 2009 and 2010.

I graduated with Bcom Information systems degree at University of the Western Cape. In March 2011 I started to serve as branch assistant at IkamvaYouth in Makhaza. In the organisation I am the first employee to come through the tutoring programme.

As for my job now…..

I am assisting with general administration and providing assistance to the branch coordinator. Collecting school reports and entering data into database. Communicating and logistics for daily activities, programme delivery and events. Assisting with general lab duties such as printing, photocopying and ensures proper usage and maintenance of the environment. Working with learners is very interesting and challenging at the same time. Managing 160 learners and 40 volunteers/ tutors is not an easiest task to do. One of the things that really help me to do well in my job is that I have experience as a learner and tutor/volunteer. This helps me to relate well with people I am working with.

Since most of our parents didn’t have the opportunity to study, I find for most of the learners IkamvaYouth is the only place where they get the opportunity to get the feedback on their school results. Our learners are between the ages of 13 to 19. At their young age they realise that their future depends on education, this is one the things that motivate me to wake up every day and be in the office to help.