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.