The start of 2012 marked the beginning of a new program at United Through Sport; the Junior School of Excellence (JSE). This is an after-school program based at Isaac Booi, a school in the disadvantaged communities of Port Elizabeth that we have worked with for the past 6 years. Children from the Zwide community are invited to partake in the sports development, personal mentoring, academic support as well as life skills that are offered in this program over a one year period.
From our Mass Participation Program, children are identified for their dedication and commitment to the program, as well as their sporting ability. UTS also works with local sports federations to identify talented children to partake in the JSE. A thorough selection process is done, which includes home visits to assess the situation at home and have a better understating of the family background. At UTS, we aim to have a personal relationship with each and every child in the JSE program to better understand the behaviour patterns and personalities of the children. On a daily basis, the children also receive a nutritional meal in the program. This on its own is an incentive for some of the children not to miss a day’s attendance.
During their year long program at the Junior School of Excellence, these children will have the opportunity to be trained by top sports coaches, play in challenging fixtures, receive mentoring and academic support as well as inter-act with International volunteers who play a big role in boosting the confidence and English skills. The beneficiaries of this program are children that come from the poorest backgrounds in broken homes and go to disadvantaged schools. The JSE therefore provides a platform for these children to be developed holistically as well as be exposed to opportunities they may not have had otherwise. As part of the program, these children will have the opportunity of meeting and inter-acting with some of their local sport role models, who also come from similar backgrounds. This will mean a lot to these children as it will give them hope for a bright future and a drive to succeed.
At the end of the year, a selected number of graduates will move on to the next level, the Senior School of Excellence (SSE), where they will be afforded scholarships to Former Model C schools for their high school career. At the SSE they will receive top level teaching, highly intense sports coaching and they will school with children from a variety of cultural backgrounds. Most importantly their chances of going on to University will rise from 3% (the township norm) to 98% (the norm for fomer model c schools in this area).
Towards the end of last year, UTS donated a series of encyclopedias to Isaac Booi Primary School. The donation was a great way of strengthening the relationship with the school. Having such useful sources of information for the children would not only add value to our project, but to the school as a whole. The principal of Isaac Booi, Mr Mtyobo, was thrilled to receive the latest addition to the school library (a beautifully painted container in the school yard as there is not a library facility in the actual school building). It is “normal” school infrastructure such as a school library, school hall and sports facilities which are standard at Former Model C schools but are rarely seen in township schools. Through programs such as our Junior School of Excellence we aim to afford all children these opportunities, reaching out to the poorest families.
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