Empowering South African Youth Through Education

by SPARK/The Umkhumbane Schools Project
Empowering South African Youth Through Education
Empowering South African Youth Through Education
Empowering South African Youth Through Education
Empowering South African Youth Through Education
Empowering South African Youth Through Education
Empowering South African Youth Through Education
Empowering South African Youth Through Education
Empowering South African Youth Through Education
Empowering South African Youth Through Education
Empowering South African Youth Through Education
Empowering South African Youth Through Education
Empowering South African Youth Through Education
Empowering South African Youth Through Education
Empowering South African Youth Through Education
Empowering South African Youth Through Education
Empowering South African Youth Through Education

Their faces were bright, their smiles proud as one by one the learners in The Umkhumbane Schools Project’s Grade 8 Girls' Groups lined up last week to receive their Certificates of Completion of the 10-week Girls' Group curriculum for the 2022 school year at Mayville Secondary School.  The mood was upbeat and celebratory as our social worker and program coordinator, Phume Phewa, congratulated each girl and posed for a commemorative photo. 

“You girls have done a great job,” said Phume.  “Now you are ready to continue as strong, independent thinkers who can guide your own education and make the very best of your high school years.  We are proud of you!”

Thanks to the generosity of our GlobalGiving donors, this years’ Girls' Groups have enrolled 60 girls at both Mayville and Bonela Secondary Schools, providing them with weekly club meetings to discuss topics such as self-esteem, peer pressure, healthy relationships, reproductive facts and health, career goals, and health and nutrition.  The girls created journals and art projects to reflect on their learning and personal growth, in the safe and supportive atmosphere of a classroom space dedicated to these meetings.  Our girls consistently report that these meetings are an oasis of friendship, affirmation, and reliable guidance in a school setting that is often chaotic and difficult to navigate.

The first year of high school can be a daunting time for any young person, but in South Africa, where high school starts in Grade 8, the challenges of fitting in, finding friends, and resisting peer pressure can perhaps be especially daunting.  Research shows that although secondary school enrollment here is roughly equal among boys and girls, drop-out rates are high, with girls potentially facing particularly strong pressures to leave school.  One study has shown that teenage pregnancy accounts for a 33% dropout rate among female South African high school learners.  As a related matter, girls in South Africa face one of the highest rates of sexual violence in the world.  And dominant cultural norms place burdens of household chores and care for younger siblings on the shoulders of many girls, making it all the more difficult for them to remain in school and become eligible for higher-paying jobs with financial independence.  Our Grade 8 Girls Groups are designed to equip girls in our partner schools with skills and a supportive peer group to help them resist these negative pressures and make the most of their high school years. 

In this, our third year of running the Grade 8 Girls Group program, The Umkhumbane Schools Project will be inaugurating a Big Sister-Little Sister program that pairs selected Grade 10 girls with small groups of Grade 8 girls to act as peer mentors.  Training of our first Big Sister cohort is underway now, and we look forward to reporting to you on this new program’s success!

We are so grateful to our GlobalGiving donors for making this important work possible.  The smiles on these young faces say it all.  Thank you!

With sincere gratitude,
Martha

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Celebrating the News of Straight A's!
Celebrating the News of Straight A's!

Sphesihle (above, celebrating the news that she attained straight A’s on her 2021 National Senior Certificate exams) has been a familiar face in Umkhumbane Schools Project photos over the last several years, having been part of our Mathematics program, our Eskom Expo mentoring program, our Model Legislature program, and our First Aid program.   As university admissions decisions have been coming in since the release of exam results in January, Sphesihle is set to begin her next exciting journey: as a medical student at the University of Cape Town, selected for two prestigious scholarships!  Congratulations to Sphesihle and all of our 2021 graduates!

In these recent weeks and throughout the latter half of 2021, thanks to your generous support through GlobalGiving, the USP has been providing wrap-around assistance to young people from our partner schools as they have completed their exams and sought admission to higher education --  even in the midst of the lingering global pandemic.  From providing advice on choice of programs, to assisting with online applications, to seeking out scholarships, to paying for acceptance and registration fees, USP staff has been working round the clock to ensure that as many of our graduating students as possible can find a place to continue their studies. 

As of this writing, our 2021 high-school graduates have attained 58 offers of admission for 2022, and have been selected for six competitive scholarships to supplement the support of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).  We could not have helped them reach these heights without your support!

Most of our students are the first in their families to go to college or university.  And many find it difficult to pay for the “extras” like books, transportation, or in a few cases, sheets and blankets for their dorm room if they will be living away from home.  Another of our students this year will be traveling tomorrow to begin her study towards a Bachelor of Arts (General) at the University of Johannesburg.  Drawing on your GlobalGiving generosity, the USP was able to provide for her bus ticket, a full set of bedding for her dorm room, a suitcase for her travel, toiletries, and some funds to tide her over until her NSFAS funding is deposited.  This is just another among many examples of the life-changing impact your support has on our students' lives.

From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for being part of The Umkhumbane Schools Project as we celebrate our 10th Anniversary Year in 2022.  Your hands are at the backs of every single one of these beautiful young people as they step into their bright futures.


Off to Study for a Bachelor of Education at UKZN!
Off to Study for a Bachelor of Education at UKZN!
More High Marks and Opened Doors!
More High Marks and Opened Doors!
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First Prize Winners
First Prize Winners

     Thandolwethu (left) and Zengakhona(right) took First Prize at the Architectural Design and Modeling Showcase cohosted by The Umkhumbane Schools Project, the Durban University of Technology’s (DUT) Office of Community Engagement, and the Level6 EduMove program on October 14th.   As promised in my last report, I am writing to update you and all of our GlobalGiving donors on the outcome of this event, so that you can share in the excitement and growth that your generous support for The Umkhumbane Schools Project has made possible.   

      The day began as a bit of a nail-biter, with some of the teams of learners and their DUT mentors still scrambling to put the final touches on their exhibition posters and our staff working hard to get the exhibition hall looking just right.  When time came for the ceremonies to open, all was in order, with 14 beautiful architectural models, drawings, and posters on display.  One by one the teams were called into a separate room to present to the judges, two distinguished local architects.  The judges were wonderfully attentive, engaging each team with incisive questions and very thoughtful feedback.  

      The winning team  --  Thando and Zenga  --  is a duo of 10th Grade boys who outdid larger teams of mostly Grade 11 learners to take First Place with their design of a school sports and arts centre.  Seeing their wide-eyed, joyful faces on hearing their names announced was a highlight of the day.  Asked how he felt about the experience, Zenga summed it up by saying “Today was actually life-changing.  I learned a lot, especially from the judges.  And the positive energy that was around today was very uplifting.  It was a very beautiful day.”

      The starting point for the designs was for the learners to identify “negative spaces” in their own schools that could be transformed.   Many of the learners’ exhibition posters therefore included distressing images of the brokenness and disrepair of their current school environments.  A local reporter who came to report on the event commented that most people outside of this township community have no idea of just how broken these school buildings are.  Through programs such as this one, the USP hopes not only to enhance our learners’ education  and career horizons but also to increase awareness of the continuing impoverishment of rural and township schools throughout South Africa.

      So what exactly did your GlobalGiving donations provide?  They provided snacks and supplies for the weeks of design and modeling workshops that led up to this event.  They provided salary support for the dedicated USP team that has been coordinating the program workshops at three different schools since we began preparing for this exhibition in May.  Your generosity is truly what has enabled this program to take shape and to have an impact on young people's lives.

     And the result?  “Life-changing.”

     From all of us at The Umkhumbane Schools Project, thank you for your empowering support. 

Presenting to the Judges
Presenting to the Judges
First Place Model
First Place Model
Second Place Model
Second Place Model
Waiting to Present
Waiting to Present
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A Design Team at Wiggins Secondary
A Design Team at Wiggins Secondary

     As the school year is just getting underway in the US and UK, our learners in South Africa are beginning the third term of the year.  Schools have still not fully reopened and learners younger than Grade 12 are still attending on a staggered basis.  There is so much Umkhumbane Schools Project activity to report back to you that it is tough to know where to begin…but one current project that stands out is an initiative in partnership with a local university to give learners hands-on exposure to the world of architecture and design…bringing one of their academic classes, Engineering Graphics and Design (“EGD”), to life!  

     Responding to the prompt “What should a post-Covid high school look like?,” five teams of learners have been hard at work on Thursday and Friday afternoons since May with teams of visiting undergraduate mentors from the Durban University of Technology (“DUT”) to create architectural drawings of their imagined educational spaces for a post-COVID world.  Over these weeks we have watched the learners use their basic EGD skills to produce drawings.  Next came the exciting process of making the drawings into 3D models, with the udergraduate mentors providing necessary guidance.  It has been wonderful to watch this process and to see the learners’ excitement as the models are taking shape.

     In October the teams will present their models to a panel of judges at a special exhibition jointly hosted by the USP and DUT.  While it will be exciting to honor the winners in particular design categories, every one of the learners will have gained immeasurable prizes in the form of increased self-confidence, enhanced EGD skills, the experience of planning and executing a project over a period of time, and exposure to mentors and professionals in the field of architecture and design.  

     This project sits at the heart of The Umkhumbane Schools Project’s mission of bringing meaningful educational and career-enabling oppportunites to township learners who remain marginalised by entrenched inequities even twenty-eight years after the fall of apartheid.  Today in South Africa, only about one in five architects is Black, though Blacks account for 81% of the population.  Less than one third of all architects are female, while women of color account for only 4% of professional architects in the country.  For our learners --  and especially the girls --  to have this opportunity to gain insight into the design process, and to participate in an architecture exhibition, while being mentored by role models who are studying architecture and engineering at the university level --  is truly a transformative experience.

     Your generosity through GlobalGiving has made this possible.  And this is but one of the many programs through which you are helping us open doors and change lives.  With heartfelt thanks for your ongoing support, we look forward to keeping you posted on the architecture competition winners and on the many ways in which your donations continue to empower young people in this vibrant community called Umkhumbane.  

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The USP's Tracy Khuzwayo assisting applicants
The USP's Tracy Khuzwayo assisting applicants

For those of us who remember when college acceptance letters came in the “fat envelope,” having the entire application process unfold online is a new world, indeed.  Here in Cato Manor, where stable and affordable internet access is not a given for most of our learners, the COVID-19 lockdown moved the application process entirely online, exacerbating breakdowns and backlogs in a process that was already difficult for our learners to navigate.  

In the midst of these challenges, thanks to your generous support through GlobalGiving, the Umkhumbane Schools Project’s higher education guidance program has remained in full swing…with fantastic results for the candidates who have just now begun the 2021 school year!  We managed to see 48 learners through to acceptance and enrollment in universities across South Africa, including the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Wits University, Rhodes University, the University of Johannesburg, the University of South Africa, Nelson Mandela University, and the Durban University of Technology.  

Our involvement in the process began last year with initial career and program choice guidance.  We then provided assistance in filing all applications and accompanying documents online, support in paying application and acceptance fees, and help with applying for funding through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme.  Required online communications were further hampered by particularly frequent rolling blackouts, which prevented reliable and timely communication with admissions officials, who were working from home.  Throughout it all, your GlobalGiving donations helped keep our team staffed, online, and continually available to go to bat for our applicants.

One exciting extra … we also have three new Moshal Scholars for 2021:  Mluleki (BSc Computer Science and Information Technology), Nkosinathi (B Engineering: Civil), and Sanele (BSc Computer Science and Information Technology), all at the University of KwaZul-Natal.  We are so proud to be a nominating organization for this wonderful and highly selective scholarship program, and even prouder still of this year’s three successful candidates —  who bring the USP’s total number of Moshal Scholarships to seventeen.

Thanks to you, our GlobalGiving donors, the doors to higher education have been opened for these inspiring young people.  We are so grateful for your continuing support, and we look forward to meeting the challenges ahead!

With our heartfelt gratitude,

Martha

 

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Organization Information

SPARK/The Umkhumbane Schools Project

Location: Durban - South Africa
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @umkhumbane
Project Leader:
Martha Bishai
Durban, South Africa
$55,803 raised of $60,000 goal
 
454 donations
$4,197 to go
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