Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
The legacy of Bantu education and the problematic policy decisions that followed during the political transition to democracy have led to two separate and highly unequal systems of education in South Africa. On one hand there are top class private and semi-private (former model C) schools that are well resourced and provide high education standards at equally high costs. On the other hand there are public schools usually found in townships and rural areas that are poorly resourced to adequately prepare learners for their matric exams. As a result, most of the youth from the disadvantaged schools fail to matriculate with results that are good enough to enable them to qualify for entrance into universities and other higher education institutions.
The entrenched inequalities from the Apartheid era are evidenced by Ministry of Education statistics that indicate that 17.4% of white youth in South Africa are enrolled at universities as compared to only 3.1% of black and 3.5% of the colored youths. Most of the learners from public schools are also not exposed to additional opportunities like skills development, career guidance, mentorship and computer literacy unlike their counterparts in more privileged schools. This puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to identifying and qualifying for post-school opportunities that may enable them increase their employability. Poor matric results and low awareness of post-school opportunities lead to high level of unemployment especially for the youth from disadvantaged backgrounds and this perpetuates poverty and lower levels of living standards.
The environment in most townships in South Africa is beset with high levels of social challenges like violence, drug and alcohol abuse, crime, unemployment and HIV/AIDS. It is therefore not surprising that, given the myriad of challenges faced in the communities, most schools in the townships produce learners whose academic performance is lower than counterparts from schools in the suburbs. In 2009, although the overall pass rate for black learners was only 56%, it was 88% for those who wrote their matric at model C (semi-private) schools indicating the difference in opportunities between the two education systems. As a consequence, less than 10% of South Africa’s youth manage to access higher education opportunities (SAIRR, 2009) of which only a fraction are from townships or rural communities.
The government and other players in the education are aware of the problems in less advantaged schools. However, more time is spent on discussing policies at government level without putting practical implementation strategies and instruments to tackle the problem at grassroots. Most of the government’s initiatives focus on changing curriculum and providing learning materials to schools and also engaging in teacher and principal development to ensure proper management of schools. Although important, these initiatives are long term strategies and it will take time to measure impact and success. Some initiatives that target the actual learners concentrate on hiring professional staff like teachers, social workers and mentors (and also software tools) to provide support and guidance towards improving matric results and gaining entry into tertiary education. Again, these initiatives are costly and may not be affordable to an average learner in most disadvantaged schools in townships. Furthermore, most of these interventions adopt the top-down approach of reaching out learners and therefore fail to allow the youth to develop leadership skills and be part of the solution.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
In South Africa, most youth from disadvantaged schools especially those in the townships and rural areas fail to perform well in their matric results such that their chances of accessing further education are very slim. This is because of the malfunction in the public schools education system affecting delivery of proper education to the learners. Joy has found a way of significantly improving matric results of these learners to enable them to qualify for entry into good tertiary education institutions which is a gate way to better jobs and consequently better living standards. Through IkamvaYouth, created and run by youth themselves, Joy provides after school support to learners from grades 8 to 12 as well as intensive holiday programs that help prepare individuals for matric exams. Although the core function revolves around offering tutorials to the learners, Joy’s model equips the learners with knowledge, skills, networks and resources to access tertiary education and employment opportunities once they matriculate.
IkamvaYouth encompasses four main programs each of which addresses a unique challenge for the learners which together, make up a comprehensive model that has proven to succeed in improving matric performance of disadvantaged youth. Firstly, supplementary ‘out of school’ tutoring and homework sessions enable learners to improve their grades from grade 8 through to 12, measured by the actual success of their matric results. Secondly, Ikamva offers career guidance to all its learners which broaden the learners’ awareness of post-school opportunities. Thirdly, Ikamva offers mentoring programs in which learners are paired with university students or professionals who are usually ex-learners to inspire and guide them through the ultimate transition from secondary to tertiary education environments. The mentors also guide the learners through the process of tertiary and financial aid applications to ensure that the learners have higher chances of utilizing the opportunities available to them after high school.
The Ikamva model draws from a large and growing pool of volunteers made up of students from nearby universities and local professionals around the center. The organization’s sustainability is driven by ex-learners who gain entrance into tertiary institutions and return to tutor at Ikamva centers as volunteers as a way of ‘giving back’ to the system. More than half of each matriculating class becomes tutors and mentors for the next cohort. Further, 80% of the management committee at the Khayelitsha center comprises of ex-learners from Ikamva. Through this system, Ikamva provides additional value added building sustainable capacity in the youths and ultimately allowing them to become agents of change, from beneficiary to benefactor. This is the core innovation of IkamvaYouth, putting youth in charge of their own (and each other’s) learning and growth to produce results that are equally comparable to well-resourced schools at a significantly lower cost. Where as many education interventions require high levels of funding and government buy-in, anyone can start an IkamvaYouth branch anywhere with some time and a couple of people. The approach and results have been acknowledged by some of the country’s leading thinkers, academics and politicians. In 2012, IkamvaYouth accommodated 743 learners from grades 8-12 in its 7 branches across the country. The matric results for 2011 included 100% pass rate in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces and an overall pass of 89% across all centers, with 87% eligibility for tertiary education.