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.
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.
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.
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.
April is a busy month for our bursary recipients as CPUT and UWC host their graduation ceremonies. Amongst the students graduating this month is Avile Mabhengu who has just completed his diploma in environmental management at CPUT. Many students at CPUT are required to complete a short period of in-service training at the conclusion of their academic studies and Avile ended up undertaking one of the more interesting internships undertaken by a Masicorp bursary recipient. Like most students he initially attempted to find a place within the Western Cape, but despite his excellent academic record, his interviews with local environmental organisations were unsuccessful or he was offered positions not directly relevant to his course. It was then that his course supervisor at CPUT advised him to take a position with the provincial government in Mpumalanga.
At 1,600 km from Cape Town it was a long way from home, but with the help of bursary funding he was able to travel north and find rented accommodation in the vicinity of his new workplace. It seems a long way to travel for training, but Mpumalanga is an ideal location for an environmental manager. With a long history of mining, Mpumalanga accounts for 83% of South Africa’s coal production. Most of South Africa’s coal power stations are in proximity to the coal deposits and so the area faces some of the largest pollution and waste management challenges in the country. Avile soon found himself monitoring emissions from Eskom power stations, and then attending a regional air pollution conference in Bloemfontein. Overall it was an ideal experience for an environmental student.
His time in Mpumalanga also coincided with the onset of a severe drought that has afflicted the country. In addition to the technical aspects of his work his training also involved an environmental education component. Avile can be seen here as part of a government team educating local communities on the sustainable use of water.
Avile has now returned to Cape Town with his training successfully completed. His grades have been sufficiently good to enable him to return to postgraduate study at CPUT, where he will complete a BTech in Environmental Management. We are not sure if he will find his way to Mpumalanga again, but once his postgraduate studies are completed this interesting period of in-service training is sure to be an invaluable part of his CV.
Last week Masicorp held its first ever alumni event for the graduates of our bursary scheme at the Kelvin Grove Club in Newlands. Since its inception the scheme has produced 17 graduates and we were pleased that the majority of them could join us on the evening. With graduates in disciplines ranging from biotechnology to accountancy and town planning we certainly had a lot of academic knowledge shared with us.
Many thanks to our patron Dame Linda Dobbs, who was our speaker for the evening and congratulated the graduates on their success. She also took the time to remind everyone that as well as becoming graduates they have also become role models for the community of Masiphumelele. Their success has shown everyone what can be achieved through hard work and study and that education really is the route out of poverty.
Events such as this are also great networking opportunities and Dame Linda informed the graduates of the benefits of networking by recalling some examples from her own career as a high court judge in the UK. Last week’s event was an opportunity for graduates to network with each other and with Masicorp staff. We are already very grateful for the contacts provided by our graduates working in the local government that may be able to assist us with funding in the future.
With a further 25 students currently studying at university and the programme having grown in size in recent years this is a group that is sure to expand in size. We are already looking forward to the next event and to welcome the next batch of graduates to the group.
The final word on this year’s event comes from BA Psychology graduate, Thulisa Mayekiso, who left us this message the following day:
Yesterday I was reminded that I am special, educated, innovative and caring. That I am a role model to others.
And that I should be motivating others, modelling and encouraging.
In all that, I learned that I am blessed to be where I am today and I look forward to blessing others and help them find themselves as well as getting out of the situations they are facing.
I just want to say if I made it you can make it too, we all grew up in Masi, went to the same school facing the same challenges. All you need to do is to get up and find meaning for your life.
Babalwa Mtshawuli was born in Mount Frere in the Eastern Cape where she completed her primary schooling. She decided to move to Masiphumelele at the age of 14 in pursuit of a better education and stayed with her aunt while completing her matric at the high school. She knew from as early as grade 9 that she wanted to work in a position that would allow her to give back to the community and was initially attracted to social work.
Babalwa later applied to join the Masicorp bursary scheme on the advice of several older students who she knew had participated in previous years. By this time her career planning had turned to working in a health facility. She arrived for an interview with an impressive set of high school results, particularly in the difficult subject areas of mathematics and physics. She had received an offer to study nursing at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and the interview panel was pleased to offer her a bursary to being study in 2011.
After four years of excellent theoretical grades and practical classes Babalwa graduated in March of this year. She is currently working at Alexander Psychiatric Hospital in Maitland as a sister in charge of one the wards. Some of her best grades during the four years of study were achieved in psychiatric nursing and this is an area she has happily specialised in during her work. If time and money allow she would like to continue studying psychiatric nursing at masters level, and she is currently considering the possibility of taking a part time course.
Babalwa has now moved out of Masiphumelele and has been sharing a flat with other nurses close to the hospital in Maitland. However, she is regularly in touch with Masicorp and has generously offered to speak about her experiences on occasions such as our recent event at the British High Commission. We were particularly pleased to see her at the recent graduation ceremony for the Evangeline Ministries / Masicorp life skills course, Babalwa was the guest speaker for the event and is seen here presenting the students with their completion certificates.
Babalwa has been an excellent student and has made the best of the bursary opportunity provided. We look forward to keeping in touch with her in the years to come as her career in nursing continues
Back in November 2014 we were delighted to report on a formal partnership with AWOL Tours, who run bicycle based tours of Masiphumelele from the BEN bicycle shop in the township. AWOL generously agreed to donate R50 per paying guest on each of their tours, which is used to support early childhood development projects in the community. After a successful summer season we are pleased to report the donations received have exceeded R18,000.
The funds are used to support our Seedlings program that provides support to the pre-school children in the community, including the school visited on the cycle tour. In particular, the funds received so far have been used to support our “stay & play” initiative. The scheme is a mother & toddler club held at the Masiphumelele library. The funds from AWOL provide craft materials, equipment and the costs of support staff from the community.
As part of the tour, AWOL guests also visit some of Masicorp’s business entrepreneurs including Nonny’s bakery for refreshments and Ndileka Biyo at the Pink house for souvenirs.
Our relationship was further strengthened when AWOL recently employed Zizipho Silwana as a sales consultant at their office in the V&A Waterfront. Zizi is a graduate from our bursary program and recently completed her studies in HR Management at Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT). Zizi is seen here with her mother at her graduation ceremony in March of this year.
Hopefully it is a great help to have a resident of Masiphumelele to talk to potential clients at the offices. If you have not done the tour yourself yet why not call in for a chat with Zizi and book a place? There are more details on the cycle tour – and online availability checks – on the AWOL website HERE.
We look forward to continuing our partnership with AWOL and our thanks to all the tourists who take time to visit Masiphumelele on their travels through South Africa.
Today sees the start of a new academic term at universities across the Western Cape. The final few of our continuing bursary students have returned to their student residences over the weekend. They have been joined by seven new students, for which we must thank the generosity of our sponsors in the United States and the UK. It was actually a very difficult process to select the new students this year, with a record number of applications coming from Masiphumelele students that had completed high school in Masiphumelele, Fish Hoek, Simons Town, and Ocean View. It is pleasing to see that awareness and interest in the programme seems to be expanding each year amongst Masiphumelele learners.
We met up with the seven new students at Masiphumelele library this weekend to complete the formalities of accepting the bursary. Each student was introduced to their mentor, who will be both their guide and friend in the weeks of study to come. We also provided each student with their laptop computer, which comes as part of the bursary. The importance of this was highlighted by Lindokhule’s experiences last year. She is already in the second year of her course, but completed the first year without assistance because she did not think her grades would be good enough to make an application to Masicorp. She completed the year whilst living in Masiphumelele and travelling to and from CPUT for her course in Operations Management.
Lindokhule (seen here accepting her new laptop) had to complete her assignments after waiting for a computer to become available in the university computer room after lectures. It was then a two hour commute home before starting again the following day. This determination made a big impression on the bursary team during her interview and a place in residence and her own computer to work on should be seen as a big reward for her hard work so far. The other new students will be studying a popular range of courses including pharmacy, accounting, mechanical engineering and law.
After meeting the bursary team and their mentors the students were taken for their first class of the year – setting up their laptops and training in how to use the new machines. Once again we thank the Yenza Internet Café for providing the location and staff from Masiphumelele library for the training. The students all left knowing that their aspirations for study at university had now become very real and we wish them all a successful year.
For most of our bursary students, the first priority after graduating is to find a job. That was not the case for Loyiso Tunce, who beaome the first of our students to complete a postgraduate qualification when he recently finished his Masters course in Town Planning at Wits University in Johannesburg. On his recent return to Masiphumelele he caught up
with Masicorp to inform us of his progress.
Masicorp has a long history with Loyiso having first met him in 2003 at a time when Masiphumelele had a middle school. Masicorp helped Loyiso to obtain a place at Fish Hoek High School, and although he initially found the new learning environment very challenging he eventually settled in. He was a keen cross country runner and ran for the school in many events across the Western Cape as well as learning new sports, such as cricket, for the first time. With the help of sponsors in the United States he became a keen reader of English literature, starting with classics such as Treasure Island and moving onto more modern material such as the Harry Potter series. In return for the books he wrote back to his sponsors in the States and tried to explain the basics of cricket to them. Clearly he relishes a challenge.
Loyiso went on to become one of our very first university bursary students and soon completed a BSc (hons) in Geography at the University of the Western Cape (UWC). For his postgraduate study Loyiso decided to move north and stayed with his uncle in Johannesburg, while he studied at Wits University. The city of Johannesburg has a very different atmosphere to the laid back tourist culture of Cape Town, and the culture and vibrancy of the city is something he was keen to experience before returning to Masiphumelele.
Loyiso worked briefly as a research assistant at Wits after he completed the course, and is now looking for similar work in Cape Town. However, his real passion is still study and he is keen to push himself one step further by enrolling for a PhD if the opportunity arises. Here is hoping that we can one day be writing about the first Masicorp bursary student to receive a doctorate.