I am currently about to start my third year at Amherst College a small liberal arts college in Western Massachusetts in the United States as a Black Studies and Women and Gender Studies double major and German as my language focus. This is a completely different path to the original plan I had in high school, which was to study accounting and eventually become a Chartered Accountant. I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship from the Student Sponsorship Programme (SSP) in high school and SSP played a large role in my being where I am today not only for financial reasons but through help with University applications, career guidance and personal support. SSP also influenced my interest in working with the Center for Community Engagement (CCE) at Amherst College because even though I have a busy schedule as a fulltime student, I think it is important to help out where you can. Once I week I tutor at A Better Chance (ABC) a national programme that takes young boys from disadvantaged backgrounds and puts them in some of the best high schools in America. Every summer, the CCE and other departments at Amherst provide a stipend for students to go to any country in the world and intern with any community-based organization. I wanted to do something in South Africa so that I could be home and still do something productive during my school vacation and more especially work with an organisation with a focus on education and/or youth development. Thankfully we live in a technological age so I just googled the type of organisations I was interested in working with, found IkamvaYouth Gauteng within the Siyakhula Education Foundation, emailed them stating my interest in working with them and the rest is history.
I have to say, for the name SEF has made for itself, the organization is quite small. I expected the Siyakula and IkamvaYouth staff to be more than twenty people but they do not even reach ten. I was really nervous the first day I arrived but I think due to the size of the people working at SEF there is a certain bond shared and I felt comfortable in no time. One of the first chats I had with Andrew Barrett, he told me that with Education in South Africa, however bad you think it is, it is actually much worse. One of the most powerful things he told me though is the fact that 80% of South African schools are basically write-offs and it would make no difference whether they were open or closed. That struck me very much because even though I was raised by my mother as a single parent who was also the only one out of her five siblings with a stable job, I managed to go to one of the best schools in East London, Clarendon High School for girls and passed matric with four distinctions. Sometimes you become very closed off to other environments and don’t realise the extent of the inequalities that exist out there. A country like South Africa that is only in its 17th year of democracy is a great place to study the gender and racial inequalities that exist because seventeen years in not enough time for the results of the restitution policies implemented to be visible.
I attended the IkamvaYouth Careers Indaba today, June 25, 2011 and met the IkamvaYouth students for the first time. I am extremely excited to be working with all of them for the next few weeks and making a difference, however small in their lives
IkamvaYouth and EwB joined hands to build future Mathematicians. Knowing that pass rates are low in mathematics at grade 12, a closer look has been taken to understand why learners perform so badly in maths. One of the major points that came up is the foundation of mathematics; maths is like ladder: you can’t jump one step and expect not to fall. Without understanding grade 8-level maths it makes it difficult to fully grasp grade 9 maths and the chain continues to grade 12. For example, with some learners, it’s not that they don’t understand the trigonometry, but it’s the fraction within the trigonometry with which they’re struggling and leads them to get the math wrong. Yes We Can Maths provides the platform to understanding these basics through the yellow and green books at grade 8 level; they start at the basic core of mathematics Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication and Division. From there the books provide opportunities for learners to practice applying all of those skills to complex maths like fractions, exponents, etc.
This being basic mathematics, most learners they don’t think they need it due to the use of calculators. However, once one starts to challenge learners about how much they are depending on calculators, they realise that they don’t even know the methods of solving simple multiplication. Through this project we are tearing down a fundamental problem of mathematics education in South Africa.
Some highlights and challenges from the learners’ perspective, we asked couple of questions: How do they feel about the books? Is there anything would like to change about the class or tutor? And do you think the books are helping in your school work?
“To me the books are not easy at the same time not it’s not difficult, because some of activities are easy but some of them it’s hard to understand so I am in between.”
“There is nothing I want to change about the class it’s alright and my tutor Nicholas does a perfect job.”
“It was helping on term 1 but now it does not, because now we are doing equations in school and that book it’s no fractions so it’s not helping much. I would like the book to change to book 2 to have equation solving for x, expression and exponents”
“I feel very excited when I see the books, it’s because it helps me very much. It’s easy to understand all the equations in the book.”
It has been wonderful having these grade 8 learners join IkamvaYouth. In addition to the EWB project they have also been exposed to English tutoring and the full range of holiday programme activities.
Thank you to EWB for enabling us to work with these learners.
Since Susan Alexander began the Careers Indaba (winter school) in 2008 it has become an annual event at all 5 IkamvaYouth branches. This year 500 learners across the country were engaged in these 2 weeks programmes. At Masiphumelele 68 learners attended the library everyday to discover new information, meet new people and to explore themselves and their futures.
IkamvaYouth has the primary goal of enabling youth living in townships to access education. Thus the winter school had to squeeze in some tutoring time, much to the disgruntlement of the learners. Luckily a full scale revolt was evaded by the dedication of our volunteers who orchestrated literacy and numeracy fundamental sessions and somehow made learning fun!
Or maybe their discontent was quelled by the wide range of exciting and novel workshops and excursions; tai chi, computer blogging, drumming leadership, yoga, drama, creative writing, dance, debating and many more. A wonderful day was spent rock pooling under blue skies in at Cape Point and at St James with SaveourSeas Shark Centre. The budding journalists were bused off to Pinelands for a crash course in magazine production. Read about this project at www.livityafrica.com. We also made a trip to University of Western Cape for a Fun Day for all 3 Western Cape branches.
The daily speakers were amazing, providing real life testimonies about hard work and commitment, as well as developing learner’s knowledge about career and study options. One visitor of special note was Vice Chancellor of the University of the Free State and acclaimed writer Jonathan Jansen. Mr Jansen gave an inspiring talk to the learners, which was followed by a lively discussion about education in South Africa. He even offered the Ikamvanites 5 full scholarships to the University of the Free State. He must have been impressed!
The winter school is hugely significant for the underlying impact that it has on students: social skill development; productive engagement throughout the holidays; time to explore ones own interests; meeting and talking to peers; learning to appreciate volunteers; learning to believe in yourself. A Grade 10 learner commented: ‘I have had the bets time of my life here and I will always carry this memory with me’.
When everyday you are faced with the issues of poverty you have little time to think about yourself or to dream about your future. When these learners do take time to dream they do so within the confines of their self and society’s expectations of them. This mindset makes these expectations a reality and contributes to maintaining the cycle of wasted potential and poverty.
The winter schools give a chance for young people to think outside of these boundaries and to gain access to information that inspires them to dream far beyond them. IkamvaYouth is focused on harnessing these potentials and with the help of Masiphumelele Library they are achieving this.
On the last day of the winter school we held a drumming workshop conducted by the Rhythm Workshop (www.rhythmworkshop.co.za). I saw the vibration of a room full of 80 eager, excited and inspired faces, grinning uncontrollably as they followed the drum beats. It is times like this that make me love my job! Everyone who contributed to making the Careers Indaba a success helped to put smiles on faces and to inspire young minds.
For the first time ever Nyanga had more than 20 tutors joining the Nyanga Winter school which was attended by 55 learners which helped us to experience a ratio of 1:5 (one tutor and five leaners)
I would like to use this time and thank all tutors who took part in our Winter School and all the people who volunteered their time and facilitated workshops for our learners. Thank you too to our partners and sponsors for making this important event possible: UWC, Fedics, Dr Peter Mills and the Answer Series.
I would like us to all share our experiences on this Blog and write about what we have learnt during the two weeks
So let me start: its been 1 year and 10 months since I joined Ikamva Youth and it feels like a life time, this was my second Winter School that I coordinated and 2011 was just something else!! Thanx to you guys
I had an oppotunity to work with really motivated young people who share the same values as myself and who are eager to see a change in the township where many of us where born, this was very evident in how many of us gave their time to the Winter School without asking much questions but joined in with the heart to help, for me it was two weeks of being inspired and motivated whilste running around like a headless chicken! lol
Trust me tutors if it was not for you guys, Nyanga Winter School would not have been a success!!!!
And ofcoz WE WON!!!
During Winter School the Nyanga Branch was honoured by the presence of Nina who facilitated workshops for a week on Radio broadcasting and production.The learners took part in sessions where they were required to share life experiences and learn more about life from each other using the radio workshop and record their thoughts and interview each other.
Comment from a learner: “we learnt alot from the workshop and Nina and her team taught us how to use the microphones and how to record, I think I would like to be a radio presenter”
Comment from Nina: “The young participants were amazing, enthusiastic, and smart. For some, expressing themselves in English proved very challenging, but they were always checked in and present with the process. The revelations of radio were exciting for them too, handling equipment, recording their voices and playing it back in a very vulnerable public space. Considering time and language constraints, we covered two production modules that would best serve the workshops; interviewing and audio diaries”.