For the past three years, European-based Maitland staff members have been engaged in a global mentorship programme with Khulisa Social Solutions, a South African non-profit organisation. This unique programme provides us with the opportunity to share the benefits of our expertise and mentor underprivileged school children in the rural community of Luphisi, a traditional rural village located approximately 40 km east of Nelspruit in Mpumalanga, South Africa.

The children we mentor attend Sidungeni School, the only secondary school in a region characterised by high levels of poverty and HIV/AIDS, and limited access to information technology and employment. Sadly, there are many child-headed households in the village, as a consequence of high HIV/AIDS mortality rates and job migration among parents.

Until the commencement of the mentorship programme, no form of IT had ever been available. Mentorship to the children of this community has been made possible due to Khulisa obtaining funding to erect the only Wi-Fi tower within a 25 km radius, as well as the children being awarded with tablets and training in IT. This has enabled the mentees and mentors to communicate frequently via Skype, the internet and Whatsapp. The mentors communicate with their mentees several times a week and despite the geographic distances the mentors have remained loyal to their mentees working alongside them now intensively as they complete their final scholastic year. In May 2019 a fully equipped IT classroom was launched, allowing all learners and teachers to be trained in various forms of technology.

Significant academic and emotional upliftment

An analysis of school reports by Khulisa-appointed experts has proven irrefutably that through the support of mentors and access to technology the programme has produced rewarding results which include a marked growth of the mentees’ self-esteem and in many cases a significant improvement in their school marks and English communication.

Meaningful connections

Maria Patterson, one of the mentors who lives in Monaco, generously sent cellphones to help improve the quality of the connectivity in the village as it sometimes impedes communications with her mentee. Maria mentors Siphiwe Mathabula and believes that the programme and her relationship with her mentee has brought so much into her life that she has offered to cover the cost for her Siphiwe’s three-year nursing studies including transport, accommodation and a stipend.

Siphiwe says, “My mentor, Maria, is so amazing. She has gone the extra mile for me and it feels as I’m the luckiest girl in the world. She helps me in wanting to succeed in everything I do – she motivates me so much.”

Another mentee, Nelisiwe Sibuyi, says, “My mentor, Jaco, inspires me to keep focused on the future. He gives me support and it feels as if someone cares about me.” Jaco van Zyl, Nelisiwe’s mentor, shares this sentiment. He comments, “Working with my mentee Nelisiwe has been fantastic. I’ve tried over the last few years to help Nelisiwe with structured studying, assist with specific exam questions and providing studying techniques. I’m now trying to assist her with her university applications to study journalism. I also support her with friendship and family issues that arise from time to time as well as general guidance on how to consider handling various situations. The experience has been eye opening and rewarding.”

Looking ahead

Khulisa has planned for the development of a community centre and a local farming project in the year ahead. Khulisa was instrumental in agriculture being introduced as a subject in the school curriculum due to the few viable career options for these young people in this potential fertile farming community. From a survey recently conducted, over 65% of the learners stated that they would want to make their future career in different aspects of agriculture.

Khulisa’s internationally acclaimed and locally rewarded best practice programmes deliver positive and measurable impact with the main focus on youth and community development. If you would like to get involved in the mentorship programme or would like to find out more about how you can support their work, contact:

Lesley Ann van Selm:
T:+27 (0) 82 601 2299
E: az.gro.asiluhk@nnayelsel

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