Business Entrepreneurship in Masiphumelele

Masicorp has been delighted to host Idaishe Mandinyenya from the University of Edinburgh for the past two months. Ida has been undertaking research work on business entrepreneurship in Masiphumelele as part of her MSc course in International Development. Last week she gave her feedback to us last week and left us with some options on how best to develop this area of our work.

idaAlthough Masicorp is primarily an educational organisation, efforts have been made to also support new entrepreneurs with their start-up process as well as support existing businesses. There have been successes, such as Nonny’s Bakery and Nondeyebo Art, but overall this is an area where Masicorp has made only limited progress, and Ida’s recommendations will prove to be a valuable aid to our future progress.

South Africa generally has a low rate of business entrepreneurship compared to other sub-Saharan African nations. In addition there is very little business permanency, with many start-ups focusing on perceived “easier’ activities in retail and hospitality. There are very specific social realities in a community such as Masiphumelele, where access to start-up capital is virtually non-existent and the distance to markets in the city is exacerbated by the cost of the limited transport options.

Ida clearly identified that two types of innovator typically exists. Opportunity entrepreneurs are the creative individuals who have unique ides and the genuine commitment to grow them into a business that can provide employment opportunities in the community. Ideally they would be the individuals that should benefit from any business support programme. However, necessity entrepreneurs are more common in Masiphumelele, where the need to acquire income to meet daily needs outweighs the desire to build a fully sustainable business.

While she was in Cape Town, Ida took the time to visit other areas of the city where successful township businesses were thriving. In particular she mentioned the well-known Department of Coffee in Khayelitsha as an example of what can be achieved. Together with her local research assistant Ida visited the six existing business supported by Masicorp in Masiphumelele. She undertook semi-structured interviews to gain on overview of how the existing support was being utilised, and how it could be improved to help them move towards some of the best examples she had seen elsewhere.

The future challenge for Masicorp will be focused around selecting appropriate entrepreneurs for our programme and guiding them toward the government support that is available, as well as providing experienced business mentors from within our team and their contacts. It is fair to say that our existing support has often been reactive and provides support for immediate needs – such as simply providing a sign for our most recent beneficiary, Daniel Upholstery.

daniel signWe now have a new programme manager in place and thanks to Ida we also now have some guidance on how to structure this area of our work. We wish Ida well with the rest of her studies, and hope to be able to report back on some more business success stories in the near future.

The Masicorp Bursary Scheme and its Potential to Support Vocational Education

For the past two months Masicorp has been hosting two masters students from the University of Edinburgh, who were undertaking research work in Masiphumelele as part of their MSc course in International Development. Both students gave their feedback to us last week, and left us with some interesting thoughts on how to further develop our existing programmes.

MatumeloFirst up was Matumelo Wilkin, who although originally from South Africa is currently living with her family in China and studying in Edinburgh. She clearly has an international profile that impressed everyone in Masicorp. We gave Matumelo a project brief based around our existing bursary scheme for higher education, which has successfully helped over thirty Masiphumelele students onto university courses in Cape Town. While the programme has been a big success we are interested in how it could be extended to cover students who may not qualify for, or desire to, undertake the academic style of learning offered at university. We therefore asked Matumelo to examine tertiary education but with a focus on opportunities for vocational livelihoods (i.e. looking at job opportunities that require local college or trade/skills training rather than university level education, e.g. IT technician, plumber, etc.).

Matumelo interviewed many groups of current high school students at the library, and also local businesses to determine if both the desire and demand for vocational training existed in the local area. We were pleased to find that those in the community that knew of Masicorp’s work valued the bursary scheme and in particular the role of the mentors, which were heavily praised by existing bursary students. It seems there will be more of a challenge to increase awareness among students at the high school, with many currently unaware of the bursary opportunity. Currently Masicorp is attracting interest through the friends and family of existing bursary students, who hear about the scheme through word of mouth.

Overall a clear need for vocational education was identified, but Matumelo found that it was not always a well perceived concept within the community. For those students with a desire to undertake further education there is a definite push for university level training, with vocational education often seen as a second best option – or even a failure. Many students were unaware of the term, and believed it is an inferior option for weak students.

feparkMatumelo also visited several businesses in the industrial parks that surround Masiphumelele, and in most cases identified a willingness to host vocational students on apprenticeship schemes. Her final report has left Masicorp with some ideas about how we could structure and finance a vocational education scheme. Once we have digested this, the challenge will be how best to identify suitable students and give them the appropriate career guidance.

It may be that vocational education courses are more suited to the many students that drop out of formal education for social reasons, rather than those that attend functions at the library and are already engaged in learning programmes. One key issue is that all students need exposure to a variety of professions that will inspire them and encourage vocational training. Many students interviewed by Matumelo were aware of their social realities, and identified various roles they would like to study for (e.g. physchology in response to supporting the many orphaned and abused children in the community).

Overall Matumelo has confirmed a lot of our anecdotal observations and left us with some good ideas on how to take this forward. We thank her very much, and wish her all the best with the final report, which will complete her masters course.

Farewell to Berlinda Donker

Earlier this week we said goodbye to Berlinda Donker, with a surprise farewell party in the Ukhanyo School Science Lab. Berlinda has worked with Masicorp for the past three years as the assistant to Fran Loudon on the Science Lab project, and has proven to be an invaluable asset. As the three year funding program comes to an end Berlinda is moving on to pastures new, and also moving away from Masiphumelele with work taking her to Johannesburg.

berlindaIt was a joyous but also sad occasion as many of the schools teaching and administrative staff were joined by the Masicorp team to wish her well. There were the occasional tears, but mostly a lot of singing and dancing, and more than anything a lot of thanks. Berlinda’s role has been crucial to the project as she has provided the link between the community and the Masicorp volunteer team. Her role has involved managing the schedule and inventory of the project, including maintaining the lab and its resources. Many times she has come to the aid of Fran and the teachers as they handle classes of up to 50 children at a time.

Berlinda has provided Xhosa translation for the project but also computer skills as well, as her background in public administration has enabled her to upskill the schools staff. It has not been unusual to see her helping out with downloads and running computer software anywhere from the front desk of the school to the principal’s office. She has also found the time to complete a degree in public administration at the same time, through part time study with UNISA.

iwanttosinggospel-top10liveinconcertAmongst all the singing and joy at the party Berlinda found time to thank everyone with a song of her own. You could hear a pin drop in the room as she treated everyone to a beautiful piece of gospel singing. Anyone who knows Berlinda would not have been surprised to hear this because amongst her many skills she is also an experienced musician. Before joining Masicorp she was a top 10 finalist on “I want to sing Gospel” – a reality TV show shown nationally on SABC. She later returned to the series as a guest judge. Here song “He Lifted Me Up” is still available for download HERE.

We wish Berlinda all the best in the future and cannot thank her enough for everything that she has done for the project.

Play for Life

Masicorp has achieved much that has improved the daily learning experience for the children of Ukhanyo Primary School in Masiphumelele. While classrooms and teaching equipment have been upgraded there has not been the same attention paid to the play areas of the school. There is little space available for the school’s ever increasing number of children to play during breaktime. Masicorp volunteer Rachel Weldon saw this for herself during the time she has recently spent with us.

While Rachel will shortly be returning to her native Australia she wants to leave the children of Ukhanyo a legacy in the form of a better environment in which to play. The current play area in the school is a small sandy fenced off area where crowds of children play at once. There are a few old tyres scattered about to jump through and an old blue gum tree. That’s it for play equipment.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERATime spent at play can be just as rewarding for children as their classroom experience. It stimulates their imagination, helps them develop motor skills, builds social skills and prepares them to learn once back in the classroom.

Rachel’s ‘Play for Life’ Fund aims to raise funds to build a playground they can use during breaks. A safe area where they can be creative, climb, swing, slide, bounce and make up games. Maybe a tree house in the old blue gum tree in the kindergarten area. Some trees and flowering shrubs, perhaps a small veggie garden, would make it into a playground for kids to enjoy for years to come.

There is currently no outside play equipment in the school at all – no swings or slides – but there is some space. This sandy area between the classrooms could be an ideal location for a playground if Rachel can raise the funds. Masicorp is committed to help her ideas come to fruition if she can raise the necessary funding.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERACan you help Rachel? Please see her website HERE to see how to make donations. There is an option to donate online or details of how to send funds directly to Masicorp. The aim is to raise the funding by Christmas with the hope that a surprise can be in place for the children in the New Year. Thanks for any help you can give.

Technology Resource Kits for Ukhanyo Learners

There was excitement among the grade 7’s this week as they arrived at Ukhanyo’s science lab for their technology classes. Masicorp has recently funded the provision of 12 Technology Resource Kits for the pupils to use in their project work. These were just some of the pleased faces in Wednesday’s afternoon class.

box Many thanks are due to Masicorp volunteer Rachel Weldon who took the time last week to visit many of the peninsula’s hardware stores to purchase the tools the students will use. Her engineering background has come in extremely useful for us all. Thanks also to Fran Loudon for taking the first class and introducing the students to each piece of equipment. Here she is demonstrating the use of a hacksaw.

sawGrade 7’s Technology mark is based on a PAT (Practical Assessment Task). This term the pupils are studying structures and need to design and build a model of a cellphone tower that should fit in with the surroundings. It has to be 30cm or taller, have a platform at the top, use triangulation for reinforcement and be constructed from easily available materials. Thanks are due here to Valley Timbers who have kindly offered to supply the school with an extensive supply of wood off-cuts that will do the job nicely.

In previous years the limited resources at the school meant that the pupils had to make their design projects from paper, tape and cardboard. This year will be different and after being introduced to each tool the students had some time to get used to them before project work starts for real next week.


Ukhanyo Science Lab – bucking the national trend in science education

The recent release of the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) “Global Information Technology Report 2014” has been making the headlines in South Africa today. It is a weighty document, but the one finding reported that has caused most concern to South African’s is that the quality of South Africa’s maths and science education places it last out of 148 countries considered. On the face of it this is a damning statistic, but the Department of Basic Education (DBE) has been quick to dismiss the significance of the report’s conclusions.

The DBE pointed out that the report’s conclusions were not based on the results of any testing or assessments at schools, but were the opinions of business executives. Selected business leaders were asked to comment on the quality of maths and science education in the country. Of course as the employers of school leavers there is every reason for the business leaders interviewed to express an opinion. With business leaders in Haiti, Chad and Lesotho ranking their science teaching higher than we do in South Africa, there is clearly some cause for concern here. The debate looks set to continue but there remains little doubt that there are serious shortcomings in the quality of science and maths education in South Africa. We know from our bursary scheme that mathematics is often the subject area that students struggle most with, and require most extra tuition, after leaving school for further education.

Fortunately we are confident that many Masiphumelele students are getting a strong grounding in science due to the success of our Science Lab programme. The project, which has been running since 2011, has provided Ukhanyo Primary School with exceptional science learning facilities. The project leader, Fran Loudon, has committed three years to the project during which time the qualified science teacher has transferred her skills to the school’s teaching staff. Science is a subject area that is now delivered with confidence and enthusiasm.

UkhanyoScienceLab-34There is definitely an interest in science subjects among the school children of Masiphumelele, as we know from the large number of school leavers approaching Masicorp for bursary support to study science subjects at university. We currently have students taking biotechnology, pharmacy, mechanical engineering and agricultural sciences. There maybe problems in science teaching nationally, but we are making great strides to rectify this in Masiphumelele.