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
Our ISF Scientists at King Shaka Airport, Durban
Our ISF Scientists at King Shaka Airport, Durban

Best One Yet!

This is the time of year when we get to update our GlobalGiving donors on the outcome of one of our biggest annual undertakings…our teaching and mentoring program for the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists and Engineers. Thanks to you, our science Expo resources have remained strong this year, and the outcome was better than ever. Here are some highlights:

At the Regional Competition: 16 Learners, 16 Medals

That’s right, after months of hard work in our Expo mentoring program, all sixteen of our young scientists and engineers earned medals at the regional competition held in August -- four Golds, ten Silvers, and two Bronzes, to be precise! In addition to their medals, our learners collected three Best-in-Category prizes, as well as a number of other special accolades for themselves and cash prizes for their schools. While we cannot pretend not to love these successes, it is not the medals that matter. What matters is the tremendous growth in learning and self-confidence experienced by the learners through this initiative. We can see it in their faces and in the way they stand a little taller. We can hear it in their voices, as they gain in knowledge and understanding of their individual project areas. Best of all, we can see it in the friendships that develop over the weeks of their time together as a group. They help one another with their research, cheer each other on when the going gets challenging, and end up with bonds that will last long after the competition is over. We wish each of you could be here to see all of this, too.

Then…Up, Up and Away to the International Science Fair!

Following the excitement of the regional competition, five of our learners were selected to advance to the International Science Fair (the “ISF”), held in Johannesburg in October. While that in itself was wonderful news, those selected could hardly believe it when they learned that this year -- for the first time ever -- the ISF participants would travel to Johannesburg  by plane, instead of by bus. For all five of our ISF learners, this was not only their first time on a plane, but their first time seeing the airport. What a memorable experience, and before the competition even began! Back on the ground for the ISF, our learners had a great time and earned two Gold Medals, one Bronze Medal, and two Highly-Commended certificates, in addition to special awards for Best Development Project and Best Environmental Monitoring Project in their age-group. Once again, it was wonderful to see them come home with these prizes, but the true reward is in the knowledge they gained, the new experiences they have had, and the expanded horizons that they can now envision.

To our GlobalGiving community -- thank you from the bottom of our hearts for making our work possible. We are so grateful for your ongoing support, and we look forward to bringing you news of our learners’ continued successes.

With our gratitude,

Martha Fitzpatrick Bishai

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USP Career Bridge Students in the Chemistry Lab
USP Career Bridge Students in the Chemistry Lab

Courage.  Determination.  And smarts.  These are three attributes common to a very special group of Umkhumbane Schools Project students – our Career Bridge scholars, whose continuing study of maths and science is being made possible through the generosity of our Global Giving donors.  With our gratitude, let me introduce you to this great group of young people supported by your generous donations:

Who are the Career Bridge scholars?

They are ten aspiring university students who finished high school last year with strong enough results to earn a Diploma Pass or Bachelor Pass, meaning they qualified for entry into higher education.  That’s the first sign of their smarts!  Yet these scholars did not gain admission to the higher education fields that are their passion.  They are a future architect, a future environmental scientist, a future nurse --  to name but three.   All came from disadvantaged backgrounds and under-resourced schools, some from our USP schools and some from as far away as Eastern Cape Province.  And all had a common weakness in their college applications: their marks in mathematics and physical sciences.

Here’s where courage and determination come in.  Instead of settling for a less-challenging course of study for which they feel no real interest, or giving up altogether on their dreams of pursuing higher education, these students are spending the current academic year studying maths and physical sciences with the Umkhumbane Schools Project’s Career Bridge Program.  This coming November, they will rewrite their National Senior Certificate exams in these two subjects and apply again for admission to the fields that they really want to pursue.  That takes courage...especially when the pressure of poverty could easily push them to settle for a low-wage job, if one could be found.  And it takes determination to embrace the task of relearning subjects that have never been personally rewarding.

What does the program provide?

The USP’s Career Bridge provides 90-minutes of classroom teaching three afternoons per week in both math and physical sciences.  Our teachers are two seasoned and energetic educators who are enjoying the challenge of helping this group get to where they want to go.  And through a fantastic local partnership, Career Bridge classes are held in classroom and lab facilities at a nearby independent school.  So these students are getting --  for the first time ever  --  focused instruction by top-notch teachers in a well-equipped, small-class setting.  We also provide individual career and applications guidance to help them navigate the process of gaining admission the second time around.

And how are they doing?

Though there is no guarantee of success with this round of college applications, we are so encouraged by the transformative change in the students' performance on tests (three of the group are consistently attaining A’s on internal tests, and all are passing!)  Best of all is what they say – “I love physics now!”  “I can’t believe how much stronger I feel in maths!” and “Our teachers are awesome!”

 

None of this could have happened this year without the help of our GlobalGiving donors.   While our other programs are continue to thrive, we are so pleased to have added this project --  it fills a real void in what is available to disadvantaged learners in their quest for educational opportunity.

From all of us at The Umkhumbane Schools Project….Thank You!!!

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Maths Olympiad At Bonela Secondary
Maths Olympiad At Bonela Secondary

It's hard to know where to begin in updating our GlobalGiving network about recent activities of The Umkhumbane Schools Project...we have been busy!!!  Instead of focusing on one particular development, this report will give you a glimpse of three exciting intiatives that your generosity is making possible for the youth of in our Umkhumbane/Cato Manor.

USP First-Aid Squads have begun their training!  While First-Aiding is a popular extra-curricular activity in well-resourced South African schools, this kind of skills development is generally unavailable to learners in township and rural areas.  Given the great need for life-skills development opportunities for our Umkhumbane youth, combined with the stresses on health and safety often faced by those living in our community, we thought that First-Aid would be a perfect fit for our learner-programming.  Thirty learners, from two of our schools, have now nearly completed Level One First-Aid certification, and will continue to meet as a team in order to practice their skills and to promote health and safety both at school and in the broader community.  Thank you, GlobalGiving supporters! 

Maths Olympiads are spreading the word: Math is Fun!  Maths learning in South Africa continues to face a crisis of severe underperformance in the post-apartheid era, and many learners from disadvantaged schools end up losing hope and completely giving up on math  -- thereby closing off opportunities for higher education and employment in many higher-paying fields.  Our Grade 8 & 9 programming is focused on building fundamental skills that were missed in earlier years, while instilling confidence and excitement about maths as a subject.  And what better way to build excitement than to conduct Maths Olympiads at all five schools, "Minute-to-Win-It" style!  So far we have completed Olympiad days at two of our schools, and we will be conducting these exciting events at the remaining three schools soon.  At the end of the year, we look forward to hosting our first-annual Interschool Maths Olympiad!  Again...Thank you, GlobalGiving supporters!

Environmental Awareness in the Umkhumbane community took a big leap forward with our screening of An Inconvenient Truth for all of the Grade 10 Geography learners in all five of our schools.  What a memorable and special day this was  --  the coming to fruition of a dream of showing this film, which is a recommended part of the school curriculum but which our community of schools had never been able to see until now.  So...once more...Thank you, GobalGiving supporters!

Your ongoing, generous support is enabling The Umkhumbane Schools Project to expand horizons, teach new skills, and inspire hope among a very wonderful group of young people.  From the bottom of our hearts...Thank You!

With gratitude and excitement for the work ahead,

Martha

Olympiad Fun
Olympiad Fun
First-Aiders
First-Aiders
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Yola and Asanda -- University Bound!
Yola and Asanda -- University Bound!

“Hectic.”

This is a favorite word for South Africans, used to describe almost any kind of busy and chalenging situation. January is truly a hectic time at The Umkhumbane Schools Project, and this year is no exception!

It’s the time of year when our Matric students, who completed high school only a matter of weeks ago, have just now received the results from their National Senior Certificate exams. They are finding out during these busy days whether a door to higher education is open to them, as universities notify them (often by text message) as to whether they have qualified for a firm offer of admission. Once an offer is in hand, students have a very short window in which to accept, with payment of a fee just to accept the offer. Securing a spot in a dorm or off campus accommodation, many times while still waiting to receive confirmation of financial aid, is the next challenge. Classes will begin the first week of February. It is hard to describe how stressful these four weeks in January can be.

At the USP, this is the time of year when we kick into high gear to assist admitted students in accepting offers and paying registration fees. Or asking admissions offices to reconsider applicants whom they have rejected. Or helping to find alternative programs to apply for where space may still be available, for some who have passed their national exams but received only rejections. For others, our goal will be to help them find ways to upgrade their marks and reapply next year. For all, we try to offer constant reassurance that there is a path available to them if they remain determined.

While this year’s hectic season still continues to unfold, we already have much to celebrate!  There are Yola and Asanda, pictured above (L-R), whose faces may be familiar to you by now. A USP maths learner, Eskom Expo medalist, and Biodiversity Pilot program stalwart, Yola has accepted an offer to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science at Wits University in Johannesburg. Asanda has also been one of our maths and Biodiversity learners, and has been accepted for a BSc in Environmental Science at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, one of several of our Biodiversity learners to be accepted into the same Environmental Science Bachelor’s program. Others have been accepted to study for degrees or diplomas in Life and Earth Sciences, Agriculture, Analytical Chemistry, Occupational Therapy, and other promising fields.

It is thanks to you, our GlobalGiving donors, that the USP is able to help our learners navigate this difficult, sometimes discouraging -- and always hectic -- path. We are so proud of their persistence and success and so grateful for your generous support.

Happy New Year and many thanks again, from all of us at The Umkhumbane Schools Project!  We will continue to keep you updated on our activities as another exciting year unfolds!

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Boarding the Bus to Johannesburg!
Boarding the Bus to Johannesburg!

“And the Best Environmental Project on Water goes to…”

For the Most Innovative Medical Research Project, Congratulations to…”

“The prize for Best Develoment Project is awarded to…”

We are listening with eager excitement as the prizes are being announced at the 2018 Regional Eskom Expo for Young Scientists. It is August 15, and the regional competition that we were feverishly preparing for at the time of our last GlobalGiving report is coming to a close. More than 500 young people have come from schools all over the central part of KwaZulu-Natal to compete in this two-day event.  In all, our team of twelve Umkhumbane Schools Project learners brings home one Gold medal, five Silver medals, three Bronze medals, three Highly Commended certificates, two Best-in-Category prizes, and seven additional special prizes. This has been an amazing day, one that all of us will long remember.

Fast forward to October 2nd. It is 6:00 AM, and the sun has just risen over the Cato Manor township and informal settlement area of Durban. Remember Pamela and Lusanda, the two learners we highlighted in our last report? Both of these scholars, along with another of our learners -- Nomvuselelo -- are boarding a bus bound for Johannesburg. These three have been selected to go on to this year’s Eskom Expo International Science Fair, based on the quality of their entries in the Regional Competition. For the last several weeks, they have been hard at work to upgrade and expand their projects. Pamela has done more testing on the ability of vetiver grass to absorb contaminants from water. Lusanda has done another round of testing for toxic chemicals in cosmetic products. And Nomvuselelo has expanded her study of the causes of lateness to school among high school learners in Cato Manor.

And now here we are on the 6th of October, greeting our returning travelers, who have brought home two Silver medals (Pamela and Nomvuselelo) and a Highly Commended certificate (Lusanda) from the International Science Fair. Exhausted but happy, they pile off of the bus from Joburg, full of smiles, stories, and heartfelt hugs and goodbyes for the other members of the KZN Central delegation to the ISF.

It is no overstatement to say that our Expo mentoring program is made possible through the generosity of our GlobalGiving donors. The funds you send are spent on developing teaching curriculum to assist learners with little prior exposure to scientific thinking or learning. They are spent on project materials, transportation to and from university labs and research sites, and food for the learners at all of our project workshops. Your gifts have also bought notebooks, paper, pens, two laptops, internet time, and printing.  In addition, you have enabled us to provide food and transport costs for our dedicated team of university students who have spent countless hours assisting our young scientists in visualising a goal and applying the full measure of their capabilities to reach it.

It is nearly impossible to put into words the impact the experiences of these last several months of preparation and participation in the Expo have had -- and will continue to have -- on our learners.   The true rewards from all of your support and all of their hard work have little to do with how many medals they bring home. It is about self-discovery and newfound confidence, new friendships and habits of excellence. Perhaps most importantly, it is about being a part of something big, something important, and knowing that you are good enough to be there.

In the words of one of our 2018 young scientists,  “Expo gave me the opportunity to see myself as a winner and a medalist. I have never got an opportunity this big and amazing.”   

On behalf of all of us at The Umkhumbane Schools Project, thank you so very much for making this work possible!

 

Working on Projects
Working on Projects
Time Out for Food!
Time Out for Food!
At the Regional Expo
At the Regional Expo
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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
$62,254 raised of $75,000 goal
 
492 donations
$12,746 to go
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