Outside help sees matric results improve by 100%

Sikhuluhe learners at Foxtec-Ikhwezi get a taste of the future from Wandisile Mbengashe.
Sikhuluhe learners at Foxtec-Ikhwezi get a taste of the future from Wandisile Mbengashe.
Image: supplied

Wandisile Mbengashe is not even a teacher, but he enabled an Mdantsane school to improve its 2019 maths marks by 100% — and now East London businesses are excited about sponsoring similar initiatives.

Mbengashe is quality manager at Foxtec-Ikhwezi, a parts manufacturer based in the EL Industrial Development Zone.

In 2018, after a year on the Find Your Voice leadership programme (FYV) run by the Gately Rotary Club in East London, he decided he had to do something to give back to the community. He was just not sure what.

“Then I happened to drive past Sikhulule High School in Mdantsane and suddenly got an urge to go inside. I asked to see the principal. I told him I was not a teacher, and I couldn't donate money, but I did have business skills and a degree. He was surprised but agreed to meet me the following week with a list.”

Principal Melumzi Mbovane said once he had got over the initial surprise, the idea of outside assistance was appealing. “I had been knocking on companies' doors for help for years and suddenly this young professional comes knocking on mine.”

Mbovane set up a meeting with Mbengashe and the teachers, who said one of the main problems was motivating learners to have a vision of their own future. In addition they struggled with maths and science.

“I discovered that the matric pass rate was low, and I could not stop thinking about the future of those who failed. Their chances of getting a job were low,” said Mbengashe.

In 2018 Mbengashe’s other commitments, including a stint in Germany, got in the way, and he did not fulfil the aims he set himself. Last year he again went to the school, apologised for not meeting his 2018 goals, and committed to making a difference in 2019.

“I arranged with the company to take the 40 maths students on a company tour. They saw the opportunities that open up with a matric pass.”

He discussed the challenge with several of his FYV graduates. They agreed to visit the school and simply tell their own stories. From this emerged a plan to tutor during the midyear holidays, using tertiary students who needed to earn extra cash. He prepared a plan and used the midyear exam 51% pass rate benchmark. A tutor spent two weeks with the maths matrics and the monthly motivation sessions continued.

“Then came the exams and the wait for the results. It was stressful, I had made commitments and I was not sure what to expect.” When the school phoned to say the average maths mark went from 32% in 2018 to 64%, he said it was a clear signal that tutorship had made a difference, and he vowed to continue in 2020. "Another project, already in the pipeline, is equipping a proper laboratory and hopefully putting in a tutor on a part-time basis.”

Carey-Lyn Kurten, owner of business leadership consultants Mila and a founding member and course co-ordinator of FYV, said the success could be the start of serious business funding, which had the potential to change the lives of thousands of learners struggling with maths.

Kurten said: “I watched Mbengashe’s impact on the school. The programme has been a catalyst to some incredible initiatives, both in business and the community.

“When he approached us (FYV) with his idea last year, we as a group of business leaders offered guidance and help in creating an environment for success. One of his FYV mentors, Pieter Bosch, (a Foxtec-Ikhwezi director), suggested he test his model in 2019, and then tweak it and ramp it up this year.

Several businesses have expressed interest in seeing the initiative scaled up this year. NPM Geomatics, Mila, Isringhausen and Foxtec are just a few who are interested.”  

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