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.