A Workshop for our Bursary Student Mentors

Last weekend we held our annual bursary student mentor workshop at the new Masicorp offices at Chasmay Road campus. This event is an opportunity for the mentors to meet each other and share experiences as well as tips for good practice. This year’s event was also the first opportunity for some of the mentors to meet our new programme manager Louise de Waal who only recently joined the team.

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Our thanks to everyone who gave up a couple of hours of their Saturday morning for what was a well attended event, with the majority of our 21 active mentors able to attend. The meeting was used to explain our plans for the future of the programme and to present a policy for how best to maximise the benefits of our donors funding to meet each students needs. We deliberately keep the bursary flexible because each student has different needs for their individual courses (e.g., laboratory clothing, extra books, field work etc.). The meeting allowed us to explain to the mentors their roles in assessing their student’s needs and feeding the information back to us.

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The role of the mentors is not just to help us to administer the bursary, but is also crucial to the student’s chances of success. One of the reasons for the high drop-out rate among South African students is the culture shock and isolation they often feel when being away from home life and the structured learning environment of school. Our students from Masiphumelele are often the best in the class at the high school, but soon find that they are just one of the crowd in the large first year classes at university. Failure in any subject at this point can be a devastating blow. Our mentors play a crucial role in befriending students and guiding them through this difficult transition, and this is one of the reasons that we have managed to attain a drop-out rate of less than 10%. It is particularly beneficial for us to have our more experienced mentors present to guide and inform the new mentors who are stepping into this role for the first time.

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This year has been enormously challenging with the continued student protests on campus, particularly at CPUT. We have a mix of students taking exams on campus or online from home. Some teaching has been cancelled and some exams will be postponed until next year. Some students have had to travel back and forth between Masiphumelele and campus as the security situation has fluctuated. It is a very difficult time for everyone involved and we cannot thank our invaluable team of mentors enough for their flexibility in responding to the needs of the students in another difficult academic year.

Wonderbags for use in Masiphumelele

It is pleasing to know that something good came out of the load shedding period that South Africa experienced during 2008. On one of those long dark nights in Johannesburg, Sarah Collins leapt out of bed at two in the morning with a brainwave. She had an idea of how to overcome load shedding and provide economical cooking based on her childhood growing up on a farm in a remote part of the country. She had watched her grandmother bundle blankets and cushions around a hot pot of stew to keep it cooking and conserve her limited fuel. She also remembered watching the San people bury food in the ground while they were cooking and eventually came up with a prototype for a heat-retention cooker, the Wonderbag. After food is brought to a boil, the pot is placed into this heavily-lined bag where it slow-cooks for up to eight hours.

Last week, in association with the City of Cape Town and Greenaudits, we arranged a workshop for 22 cooks from the pre-schools we work with in Masiphumelele to introduce them to the Wonderbag.

The ladies got to sample, rice, soup and stew cooked in the bags and the environmental benefits and cost savings were explained to all attendees.

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In the last five years 700, 000 have been sold or donated across Africa and elsewhere in the world. Their use has saved energy use and reduced indoor air pollution from cooking on solid fuels, especially wood. This of course has enormous benefits for the children in a pre-school environment. Smoke inhalation is decreased and burns from cooking fires are minimized. And by freeing up time spent cooking, the Wonderbag gives back time to the pre-school staff to spend more time with the children.

All 22 participants received a Wonderbag for use in their pre-schools and we look forward to seeing them in use in the future.

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Elize Reaches the End of the Trail

Many blog readers will be aware of Masicorp volunteer Elize Taylor’s efforts to raise funds for sports facilities at Ukhanyo School by trail running this year. We are pleased to report that she has just completed her final event on the Wild Coast in the Eastern Cape. After the challenges of the mountains in the Cape Winelands and the arid conditions of the Northern Cape / Namibia, this was a very different challenge. The Wild Coast provides sandy beaches and coastal forests, but also many rivers to wade and even swim through. Elize ran from 35 to 44 km per day to complete the 112 km trail in the three days. She has now completed her series of three trail runs for the year – although we have the mention she still found time to run the Cape Town Marathon in between these events!

Elize used Backabuddy to collect funds for Masicorp. The fund raising platform is used by many runners/swimmers/cyclists who can become a “champion” and raise funds for their preferred causes. Typically champions raise around R2000-5000. The final total raised by Elize was a hugely impressive R11,938.16, which will be gratefully received by Masicorp on behalf of the school.

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Her Backabuddy page is still open and further donations can be made if you missed the earlier opportunities. Many thanks to everyone that has donated so far and of course huge thanks to Elize herself, who we hope is now getting some much earned rest.

Watch Simphiwe Ndzube on SABC

Every Thursday evening SABC1 screens a programme called 100% Youth. The show describes itself as follows:

The majority of our youth follow populist cultures but there are those who stand out, are grounded and comfortable in non-mainstream cultures and art-forms; the ones who choose the route less travelled.  These youth are not weird; they are independent and ooze a sense of free thinking and confidence, they are 100% youth.

Each week they feature young South Africans that are making a success in creative industries – from recycling entrepreneurs to jeweler makers – and including Masicorp bursary recipient Simphiwe Ndzube, who recently graduated in Fine Arts from UCT.

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You can see the full episode featuring Simphiwe HERE – including his return to Masiphumelele library to donate a piece of art.

For further information on 100% Youth – see their Facebook page HERE

To see more of Simphiwe’s art check out his tumblr HERE