High Fashion and High Hopes

The phrase “High Fashion and High Hopes” was the order of the day last Saturday as the latest group of graduates from the Evangeline Ministries life skills programme celebrated graduation with a fashion show. The programme, which is part funded by Masicorp, has run successfully for over five years and can boast more than 100 graduates. Sixteen more graduates from within the Masiphumelele community can now be added to that number.

As the ceremony started the new graduates danced their way into the graduation hall – kindly provided by our friends at Living Hope. Each graduate was wearing a selection of the clothing they had made during the previous six months, and they took it in turns to show off their outfits. There was a real mixtures of styles on show – from professional business suits to colourful dresses, and for the first time two male students presenting shirts (and a colourful hat).

collage 1

collage 2

The life skills programme has three components to it – computer training, English literacy and sewing skills. Each graduate received a certificate of competency in all three areas as well as a brand new sewing machine, from which they can continue to work from home and hopefully earn a future income.

Sewing Cafe Graduation 2015 - 18 (small) (3)

For the programme manager, Wendy Ryan, it was a successful end to another six-month cycle, but only a brief respite in her work. With over 60 applications received already it will be straight back to work selecting the next group of students for the second half of 2015. We wish her well and express our congratulation to each of the new graduates.

Sewing Cafe Graduation 2015 - 43 (small) (3)

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.

A Successful Year for English Please

As another school year comes to a close there is particularly good news to report from the English Please programme at Fish Hoek Primary school. Masicorp volunteer, Milli Firth is a specialist English teacher who gives her time to tutor the students from Masiphumelele that attend the school. The programme has been very successful as we have reported previously.

The grade 7 group that finished this year was the first group that Milli has taken all the way through their time at Fish Hoek Primary. We met up with the group in the week before school finished to chat about their experiences on the programme and their hopes for the future. The ability to speak English fluently gives the students a massive advantage in life, and this was highlighted by their placement in high school. As early as June, all five of the girls in the group were placed in Fish Hoek High School and are looking forward to the significant step up in learning, with new subjects to master and new friends to make.

Gift is the solitary boy in the class and has an even larger adventure to look forward to following his award of a bursary to attend Bishops All-Boys Independent College School in Cape Town. While the girls will remain living in Masiphumelele, Gift will become a boarder, sharing a room with five other learners. Bishop’s is one of the most prestigious schools in the Western Cape, with a long history of high academic achievement. It will be a huge challenge for him, but it is a fantastic life opportunity that has been made possible by the tutoring he has received in the English Please class.

EP1All of the students were able to talk enthusiastically about their future hopes and conversation turned to their ambitions in life after school. Gift has an interest in the arts and hopes his experience at Bishops will enable him to work in drama. The girls were hoping that Fish Hoek High will help prepare them for careers in the travel industry, the legal system or social work. Or in one case the opportunity to be on TV – doing absolutely anything – as long as it is on TV.

Well done to all of the students and to teacher Milli. We wish them all well in their future studies and will be sure to check in again to see how they are progressing.

A New Classroom for Masifunde

Over the past month everyone at Ukhnayo Primary School has become used to seeing this bright shiny new classroom that has appeared on the school grounds.

Container classroom 2The container classroom was sourced by Masicorp following an incredibly generous donation from Ann Salmon – the founder of our Masifunde (Let’s Read) English programme. Ann only resides in South Africa for a short period of the year and hence will not yet have seen the new facility. However, we are pleased to report that it is getting lots of use and has become an invaluable addition to the school.

Jane reading with boyThe new classroom is used exclusively for Masifunde. Through the Masifunde programme the learners at Ukhnayo receive extra tuition in English that will enable them to better make the transition from teaching delivered in isiXhosa to English at Grade 10. For some children it literally is starting from scratch, and they must start by learning the alphabet. We are fortunate to have learning materials from the Wordworks programme to support the new learners. As the children become older and advance on to more detailed reading materials the Masifunde volunteers have had to download stories from the internet, which they have printed and laminated for the children to read. An unexpected bonus of Ann’s kind donation is that the exchange rate has left us with a small surplus that we can use to buy a series of proper storybooks that will be more appropriate for the older grades.

Kids readingMasifunde is a big project and we have a number of volunteers that give up one or two mornings a week (08.30 – 12.30) to help small groups of children (4-6 children) in half-hourly time slots. We always need more volunteers for this rewarding programme and if you live locally and feel you could give us your time please do consider getting in touch. No formal teaching experience is required and we will provide training and the use of teaching materials. And of course you will get to spend time in the smartest new classroom on the Ukhanyo School site.

You can contact Masicorp through our website contact page – please CLICK HERE

A Visit to English Please!

Every week Masicorp volunteer Milli Firth gives her time to help the children from Masiphumelele that are studying at Fish Hoek Primary School improve their English language skills, through the  “English…Please” program. Only a small number of Masiphumelele parents are able to send their children to Fish Hoek Primary School, which is a fully English medium school with excellent educational standards. In the long term their educational prospects are massively improved but on arrival they often struggle. Some grade 1 pupils have never spoken English and rarely hear the language at home or in their local community. Milli’s help is crucial for them to integrate into their new school.

This week the class received a visit from Masicorp founders John and Carol Thompson, together with Jane Philippi from the USA funding team. The group are currently staying in South Africa and are taking the opportunity to visit some of Masicorp’s programs. The importance of “English…Please” was immediately apparent when they met three grade 6 learners, Siya, Sibuseto and Mihle, who explained their frustration at arriving at a school where they were unable to communicate. Initially they struggled to make friends and Mihle was bullied while Sibuseto said he just wanted to cry all the time.

milli and students

Without programs like “English….Please” children from Masiphumelele would quickly fall behind and the benefits of attending such a good school would be lost on them. Today their English is hugely improved as they demonstrated by reading a story to the group. They also demonstrated a simple exercise to show that they could follow instructions in English. It seems a simple thing, but for students who struggle to understand the medium of instruction they often do not even know what their teacher is asking of them.

All of today’s students were able to express themselves well to the visitors as they joined a group discussion about their future hopes. Mihle wants to be a doctor while Sibuseto wants to be a professional footballer. Siya trumped everyone by explaining his aim to become a lawyer, footballer and artist. All of the students intend to continue high school in either Fish Hoek or Simons Town and their confidence and ability in English should see them in with a good chance of succeeding. The program helps them both academically and socially. In South Africa many communities are still effectively separated due to the historic legacy of apartheid, with black and white families living in separate areas and rarely integrating. Milli has noticed the students from “English…Please” are finding it easier to mix and make friends with the predominantly white learners at Fish Hoek Primary School, once they are more able to communicate effectively.

john as a student

As a final touch to a successful morning the tables were turned on John and Jane as they became the students and Mihle instructed them in learning the vowels.  We are pleased to report a healthy pass rate among our visitors!

Masiphumelele Library

For any resident of Masiphumelele wishing to improve their educational prospects the library is one of the most important buildings in the township. Under the leadership of Susan Alexander it is a vital source of free education and personal development for township residents. Masicorp and other NGO’s run many learning projects from the library. We recently reported on the most recent of these – a mother & toddler group – but Masicorp’s volunteers also offer 19 other programs in areas such as computer training and adult literacy.

Lib01Prior to 2003 there was no library in Masiphumelele. Masicorp was instrumental in building the existing facility and a later extension in 2010. For many years the library was run as a satellite of nearby Fish Hoek but gained full community library status in 2012. In addition to the educational programs there are now over 45,000 book loans a year made to members of the community.

Lib02Masicorp has about 50 active volunteers working on the various programs at the library, including many from the Masiphumelele community. To promote and share some of the many ongoing activities taking place at the library Susan Alexander and her team have now started their own blog. Please follow the link below to catch up with just some of the many initiatives happening now at Masiphumelele library.

Masiphumelele Library Blog

A Solution for Alive and Esethu

Earlier this week we told the successful story of Phamela Ndyalvane and her high school scholarship. Back in Masiphumelele her two friends Esethu Mahlumba and Alive Somaguda were delighted for Phamela but also concerned about their own future education. Masicorp’s Jan O’Connor was also concerned for them. While the two girls had been busy pursuing the scholarship from the Alan Gray Orbis Foundation many of the better schools in the area had completed their admissions for the new academic year.

alivesJan was way behind but helped the girls with the time consuming process of completing application forms. Of course even if she could find places for Alive and Esethu there was the considerable matter of the R30,000 tuition fees that would be required. It looked like a hopeless task.

Help came unexpectedly when a fellow Masicorp volunteer, Fran Louden, had a chance meeting with a local physician who expressed an interest in helping to fund a disadvantaged child’s education but had no idea how to begin. One swift introduction later and Jan had her on board. During the school break Jan returned home to the U.S. and ran into old friends who also expressed a desire to help. Incredibly within a matter of weeks she had two sponsors willing to finance the girls – if only a school place became available.
Having sent letters describing the girls achievements to every school within a 30 mile radius of Masiphumelele she finally got some interest. Wynberg Girls School – a century old school in the southern suburbs with an excellent reputation, would interview both Alive and Esethu. Jan took the girls to Wynberg to meet the principal and was probably more nervous than the girls themselves who wowed everyone with their personality and eloquence. At one point in the interview the girls were asked what conditions still needed to change in South Africa. Almost without thinking Esethu produced the response:

I have heard that Nelson Mandela said that in order to move forward, we must forgive the past. I think that we have the things we fought for during apartheid. We have schools, we can live where we want to, we can vote. Now it is up to us to find a way to solve our own problems. We cannot blame others for the things that are our responsibility to fix”.

A statement so profound and delivered in so stately a manner that it could have come from Nelson Mandela himself rather than an 11 year old pupil. Not surprisingly the principal was too stunned to reply.

esethu2Just a few days afterwards both girls were accepted and with the agreement of their parents will attend as boarders, where they will have access to tutoring, computers and a supervised study hall.

What a triumph of perseverance for Jan and her informal book club. Within a year all three girls were placed in prestigious high schools with their futures in their own hands. Already the girls are considering studying journalism and drama at University. With the motivation they have shown so far anything is possible as they take the next step on their life changing journey.