U.S. Board Member, Jane Philippi, Visits Masi

We’ve been happy to welcome Jane Philippi, from our U.S. Masicorp Board, for a recent two-week visit.  Jane, who has been involved with Masicorp since 2002, came to see her many friends here and also to view progress on various projects since she and John and Carol Thompson, Masicorp’s founders, visited in 2014.

Two highlights of the visit were the Masi Educare Pre-School and the new Maths Lab at the Ukhanyo Primary School.  Construction began the week Jane arrived with foundations being laid for the addition of 8 refurbished container classrooms to Masi Educare!  The old farmhouse building that was home to the existing school with its 60 children is also getting a further facelift, including a new roof that was installed during Jane’s visit.  The children have been moved to temporary quarters elsewhere in Masi.  When completed, the school will serve 160 young children!  Masi Educare is an important step toward Masicorp’s vision of quality Early Childhood Development (ECD) being available to ALL the children in Masi.  Jane also met with the Seedlings team managing all of Masicorp’s ECD initiatives including critically needed teacher training.

masi  edu

Masi Educare expansion underway!  Jane Philippi and Fiona Maitland, Program Director, Seedlings

The brand new Maths Lab in Ukhanyo Primary School was another stop.  The Maths Lab joins the English and Science Labs at the school.  These programs, structured to improve teaching skills, are transforming primary school education in Masi.  Maths skills have has been particularly weak link for our children.  Our last blog provided details on the Maths Lab, and the two American teachers, Scott and Laurie Smith, project leaders. They have made a minimum 3-year commitment to the children at Ukhanyo!

maths lab

Maths Lab at Ukhanyo School:  Scott and Laurie Smith with Michael Tyhali, Principal


It works!!

Jane spent time with a few of Masicorp’s university bursary program students and recent graduates.  Busi Ngcwama is teaching at False Bay College where she also just started a netball program for girls.  Loyiso Tunce, who just completed his Master’s Degree from Witts University, is interviewing for positions in urban planning.  Thulisa Mayekiso is a cluster mentor at Nal’ibali, a reading club program for township children.  She manages the program throughout Masi.  Jane and a couple of other Masicorp volunteers also traveled to the University of the Western Cape (UWC) to meet with a few of our current bursary students there.


Phumza Kibi, Phumlani Mtshawuli and Zodwa Bleki taking a break from first-term exams at UWC


 Siviwe Makeleni studying Law at UWC

To quote Jane: “There’s so much visible progress in just one year.  It’s especially encouraging to see many new volunteers from the surrounding communities and among Masi residents as well – making a difference in the lives of the people in Masi.  Contrary to so much of what one reads and hears in the press, we are seeing children get an education and become young adults with good jobs!”

We were delighted to have Jane visit us and we thank her and all the incredibly generous U.S. donors she represents. Our world-wide donors and the many Masicorp volunteers, all working as a global team, make it possible for the people of Masiphumelele to build a better future for themselves.

Thanks again Jane – come back soon!


President and MD

The Maths Lab is Ready for Learners

There is no escape from the fact that Mathematics is a problem subject area for South African learners. While many schools across the country have reported good matric pass levels, the national press has been quick to report that mathematics pass grades are falling – and this is even true in the generally less taxing mathematics literacy subject area. It is even more worrying to note that in many parts of the country this poor performance in mathematics is linked to a lack of ability in the teachers delivering the subject material. This was highlighted in the World Economic Forum’s 2014 Global Information Technology report, which ranked South Africa’s science and maths education as the worst in the world.

Much has subsequently being written about the report and its perceived shortcomings, but many education experts in South Africa have recognised the need for a better quality of learning experience in the science and maths subject areas. The Centre for Development and Enterprise has specifically addressed the issues around maths education in South Africa in a series of reports that can be downloaded HERE.

We have previously reported how the Science Lab project is bucking the national trend in science education at Ukhanyo School in Masiphumelele. This month sees the start of a similar initiative to improve mathematics teaching. The Maths Lab is a refurbished classroom in Ukhanyo School, where we will be attempting to raise the quality of the learning experience for teachers and learners from Grade 4 onward.

S & L 3Masicorp is very fortunate to have Scott and Laurie Smith to lead the project. Scott is a qualified engineer and mathematics teacher, who has taught maths from elementary to high school level in the United States. Scott and Laurie arrived in Cape Town six-months ago to establish the Maths Lab and have spent that time designing an open learning space with re-usable teaching aids, which Ukhanyo teachers will have access to for maths classes. They have spent much of their recent time trialing the new teaching aids with Grade 4 learners, who have responded very positively to the increased contact time.

Previously teachers were having to select one pupil at a time to solve problems on a blackboard in front a class of around 40 learners. Now each student will have their own whiteboard, and all learners can work through the same problems together. Scott will be available to guide the teachers in the use of the new materials and to advise them on how to improve the learning experience for their learners. Just as with the Science Lab, the aim is teach the teachers so that the facilty becomes a sustainable resource for the school.

student maths

Scott and Laurie have volunteered their time for three years to manage the project, with start-up funds for the new facility being provided by an extremely generous anonymous donor from the United States, as well as Bateleur Capital in South Africa and a few others. We cannot thank them enough for their commitment, and with the first classes due to start at the end of this month we know the teachers and learners at Ukhanyo will also soon be extremely grateful for their work at the school.


Gary and Geoff Kendall Return to Complete the Cape Argus for Masicorp

Once again Masicorp is pleased to thank Gary and Geoff Kendall for their fundraising efforts in the Cape Argus cycle tour. The two brothers completed the cycle tour last year on fold up bicycles and raised over ZAR 20,000 as a result. Originally from the UK, Gary moved to Cape Town in 2011, while his brother Geoff flies over to participate in the race.

GK1One of their highlights in previous years has been actually passing Masiphumelele on the tour. Having completed the cycle race three times previously, it was the reception they received from locals that encouraged them to raise funds for community projects in the township. We are very grateful that they decided to contact and support Masicorp.

Sadly this year the tour could not pass Masiphumelele as the route was shortened dramatically following the extensive fires that raged across the peninsula in the week prior to the event. It was not considered safe for cyclists to use the badly affected Chapman’s Drive route and other roads needed to be kept clear for fire crews to respond to possible flare ups.


Fortunately they were able to visit Masiphumelele and meet with us on the Friday before the race. We were pleased to take them to Ukhanyo School where Masicorp will be using their generous donation to support the rehabilitation of the sports facilities at the school.

Gary and Geoff are seen here on the bicycle they used to complete the race. For something different this year they rode on a tandem, which Gary ordered off Gumtree. The bicycle arrived unseen by the pair the evening before the race. Always up for a challenge the pair are already planning to return for next year’s event, and are considering riding on unicycles. We look forward to reporting back on that and in the meantime our thanks to Gary and Geoff for their efforts.


Gary and Geoff have a just giving charity page and although they currently have raised a significant sum please note that the website will accept donations for three months after the event. Please consider supporting both riders if you can by following the link HERE.

A Boost for English Literacy in Masiphumelele

Masicorp is involved in several English literacy projects in Masiphumelele, which play a crucial role in promoting educational and business success for children and adults in the community. Children who live near or below the poverty line have much lower average reading scores than their peers. This lack of basic literacy skills is linked with academic failure, substance abuse, teen pregnancy, delinquency, unemployment, low productivity, and welfare dependence. Literacy problems extend into adult life where parents who cannot read tend to have children who struggle with reading, thus perpetuating the cycle of poverty.

We were recently delighted to receive a generous donation of 10,00miser0 Euro to assist the delivery of English literacy project from Misereor, the German Catholic Bishops’ Organisation for Development Cooperation. Misereor have assisted development projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America for over 50 years, but this is the first time they have worked in Masiphumelele. Masicorp will be using the funding to support five key literacy projects:

English…..Please! Now in its 4th year this project supports the children from Masiphumelele that attend school in Fish Hoek. For further details see our previous blog posts HERE.

Homework Club at Masi Library Volunteers provide homework help and workshops for primary school children of Masiphumelele.  Masicorp and the library support this worthwhile initiative.

Wordworks (WW) Literacy Programme This English literacy programme is designed to teach disadvantaged children a second language. Volunteers trained in WW methodology mainly come from the communities where programmes are based and operate out of the community library. Assessments are carried out every 6 months. Masicorp currently partly funds WW in Masiphumelele.

MasiFunde Reading Programme Masicorp set up an English Lab, run successfully and sustainably at Ukhanyo Primary School, where we promoting reading in English. For further details see our previous blog posts HERE.

Adult Literacy Programme Masicorp’s Adult Literacy Programme encourage adults to attend lessons once a week at the Library to improve their English Language Skills.  These lessons are attended by employed as well as unemployed community members.  In addition there are also optional reading sessions, where reading for enjoyment is encouraged.


Many thanks to Misereor for their grant to support these initiatives and we hope to work with them again in the future.