All the planning and emphasising that occurred months and days prior to the commencement of our 1st winter school allowed everything to transpire into a good and effective effort for the Mamelodi Branch. I say good because, for one, as emphasised and reiterated during winter school, learners now know that you’re never your best, secondly one should always strive to achieve better and for our winter school that existed in more ways than one.

With less than 90 learners attending our winter school, it became evident that only smooth sailing would prevail. That coupled with commitment and plain old hard work proved to allow effectiveness to be the order of the day.

Our winter school was held at the University of Pretoria, Hatfield campus. We were hosted with warmth and the learners thoroughly enjoyed the experience. With the learners having never been to an established academic institute of that scale, the experience unlocked their eyes and minds to a new sphere of possibilities. Yes, the point of it all was to expose and make them aware of what could possibly be their tertiary institute and playground one day with the understanding in mind that that can be achieved through hard work and commitment.

Therefore our winter school wasn’t about the daily routine of the 8am to 4pm program; it was about ensuring that learners leave with the confidence and understanding in mind that it starts with self. A lot of activities and workshops that occurred during winter school were aligned with the course of developing our learner’s leadership skills, level of awareness, valuing self and importantly raising awareness of the social issues that affect youth and the preventative actions that are available to them.

We had a number of facilitators, speakers and organisation’s that assisted us in realising the idea that was our first winter school. They all felt at home and spoke of returning to the branch during the year to do a number of workshops or awareness campaigns with our learners once again. With the way everything played out, our winter school seemed to have been an introductory platform in enabling our learners to become the learners we are shaping and assisting them to become. As the year proceeds, we will continue to keep the energies on a high and continue to emphasise what needs to be emphasised to further allow growth and excellence in the branch. As the days passed and smooth sailing prevailing, our winter school was burgeoning with high levels of energy and comradery that only an effective team effort can produce. We all valued it.

There are no limits in life, however when the ineffectiveness and technicalities of the environment you find yourself in fails you, it becomes a tough task and ask to rise up to the challenge when you haven’t learned how to. With our tutors predominantly residing in township based homes and understanding the happenings that hinder ones progress, it became evident that their task as volunteers does not only end in the tutoring space. Our volunteers took it upon themselves to guide, mentor and emphasise all along what we have been saying to the learners, which is; my future is in my hands and that everything starts with self.

The 2 weeks of our winter school allowed and caused a positive paradigm shift in our learners and volunteers. In any learning environment, a sense of comfort and ease needs to be prevalent, this then enables learners to raise questions and seek answers, become more of themselves and most notably to understand that they must excel for themselves first and therefore enabling others to do the same. Not too bad for our first effort of winter school as a branch!