By Sarah Kingon
It’s a Saturday morning and the Ikamvanites at Nombulelo High School are speaking loudly in English in an attempt to out-compete each other to win prizes: R5 airtime or chocolate or a maths set. IkamvaYouth Branch Coordinator Bulelwa Mangali explains that their tutoring programme only allows for learners to speak in English during their meetings and rewards learners for their efforts. “People speak loudly to their friends to make sure I can hear them using English to increase their chances of being rewarded with a prize,” laughs Mangali.
“To do English on a Saturday, I have to come up with fun ways of learning. One week I told the learners to tell me about their favourite singer or TV drama or series or book in English. Now they told me about Rihanna – what she’s singing and why she chose those lyrics. Then afterwards I say to them: ‘Do you realise that you actually did this in English?’ Then they see it’s not so tough,” said Mangali.
She explains that it’s not enough to go to school and neglect the books when you get home. With uncertainty about teachers pitching for class and a lack of English language comprehension among learners, getting involved with an after-school tutoring programme is a good way to guide learners to successfully passing the all-important matric exam.
This is where IkamvaYouth steps in. This NPO runs a series of programmes to equip high school learners from disadvantaged backgrounds with the skills, resources and knowledge to successfully negotiate Grade 12 and access tertiary education and job opportunities after matriculation.
Ikamva lisezandleni Zethu (shortened to IkamvaYouth) is translated to “The future is in your hands”. IkamvaYouth was launched by Joy Olivier in Cape Town in 2003 and has since expanded to Gauteng, North West, Kwa-Zulu Natal and the Grahamstown branch in the Eastern Cape.
The Joza branch suffered a glitch in the second term of this year when their District Coordinator and Branch Coordinator resigned. The branch was forced to close temporarily while they appointed a new branch manager. Mangali, who had previously worked as a finance officer at the Centre for Social Development, stepped up for the position. She has never been trained for this sort of position, but felt that she needed to do something to change the education situation in the Eastern Cape.
“It is quite shocking that in the township there was only one learner that received a Bachelor Pass in 2012. I thought let me join and see what impact I can have,” said Mangali.
The Joza branch situated at Nombulelo High School offers places for learners from Grade 10-12 to join and become “Ikamvanites”. Learners take part in a tutoring programme where Rhodes University students and local professionals assist learners academically.
“We don’t teach, we tutor,” said Mangali. “Learners are used to having a teacher in front of them feeding them information and they get lazy. Tutors are trained to ask learners questions about what they know. Learners think they know nothing, but by the end of the session you find out they know 50% of the work. The learners help each other.”
Mangali said that learners need to be taken out of their comfort zone to a space where they actually read and prepare before class. “Sometimes you have to go beyond tutoring to play the role of a mother or a big sister or the enemy that forces them to put in the work,” said Mangali.
Ikamva also hosts a mentoring programme enabling mentors to guide learners through the process of entering the tertiary educational sphere. Other programmes include career guidance, computer literacy and HIV education.
In the short time she has been involved with Ikamva, Mangali has been encouraged by teachers who share the improvements they have observed in Ikamvanites. But the real reward is when learners show their appreciation by thanking her for what she has done.
The job is not without its problems. “I noticed that there was a lot of competing among NPOs. We need to move on from competing and share more of our knowledge with each other to have a greater impact,” she said.
Mangali hopes that in the future the Ikamva team will expand to open another branch in Grahamstown.
Check out the IkamvaYouth vision for 2030 on their website and see how you can get involved as a learner or a tutor.