July 2014   

NEWSLETTER # 17 - Its all about… relationship!

"This programme seems as if it is giving lots of skills and experiences… I want to improve myself in everything!" - Sandi Tshemese, Jumpstart

When we think about the big picture - moving education systems forward, shifting people out of poverty, and other similarly grand notions - one can lose sight of where change actually happens: in relationship with the people in front of you. We've been powerfully reminded of this through two new programmes that focus on deep impact on small numbers of people, and it is giving us fresh inspiration for deeper investments in all the students and teachers we work with. After all, teaching is relational, where powerful things can happen when trust develops over time. I hope you enjoy these relational highlights from the last few months…

Community Readers: doing amazing things with stories!

I mentioned the first of these new programmes in my previous newsletter: our fabulous Community Readers. The personal growth in each of these young people has been remarkable! From shy, tentative interviewees at the beginning of the year, they've experienced a metamorphosis that has left them almost unrecognisable as the confident, vibrant story-tellers that now attract children towards them. Their very evident enthusiasm for reading and stories has been rubbing off in two important ways. Firstly, the teachers that we partner with are starting to become intrigued by our Readers' very different approach to reading, and are beginning to engage with us about how to improve the dynamics of their classrooms. Secondly, the Readers, on their own initiative, have started a number of community- and school-based reading clubs, where suddenly stories come alive to children outside of the confines of the school day. Much of what we do is based on and inspired by Nal'ibali's national reading-for-enjoyment campaign, and has been generously supported by the Freddie Marincowitz Welfare Trust and Biblionef. We're hoping some further substantive funding will allow this programme to move from pilot to powerful!

Our enthusiastic bunch of Jumpstarters - in action!

Jumpstart, the second of these new initiatives, takes local 'gap-year' students and provides them with structured opportunities to learn practical skills, gain work experience and earn a little money in preparation for the world of tertiary study next year. Given the experiences of our Ekukhuleni students currently studying at universities far away, both the monetary cushion and a set of preparatory skills (especially computer literacy) should go a long way to easing the transition to tertiary. We're very grateful to be partnering with the Jabulani Rural Health Foundation on this initiative, and to many of you who are supporting it through the Love Zithulele Prezzie Project. As the quote at the top indicates, the five students seem to be lapping up every experience - and the change is visible in their faces.

Kirsty with Ekukhuleni alumni at TSiBA

Speaking of tertiary study, our Careers Coordinator recently visited a number of our students studying in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth and came back with glowing reports of how well they've settled. As is to be expected, some have struggled with both the academic and social changes, but by and large we've been pleasantly surprised by the confident, happy and successful young people we've seen. Some of these students, home for the mid-year break, have come to visit Ekukhuleni and shared their experiences with our Grade 10-12 students, who listened with understandably wide eyes. We're also excited to be hosting the University of Cape Town's Careers Service as they make their first ever rural outreach in July. They'll be meeting with our Ekukhuleni students as well as Life Orientation teachers from schools in the area. Plenty of learning ahead for all involved!

2013 Alumni Sisamkele (UWC) and Luvo (TSiBA) share their experiences of university life with current Ekukhuleni students

Students at Masakhane (Grades 6-9) and Ekukhuleni (10-12) recently completed a set of mid-year exams, which should give us an early indicator of how they're progressing. We aim to run our Grade 12s through a series of at least ten past exam papers in each subject by the time they write their final exams, so for them this is just one more milestone on the road to success. We're now into a flurry of camps (ten in four weeks!) co-run with a number of outside groups and volunteers from as far afield as Massachusetts… and as near as Zithulele Hospital, where our Grade 11s and 12s will be doing job shadow. It makes for a busy time for our team, but we know that these are rare opportunities to have sustained periods of time building relationships, investing in students and, of course, making our way through important academic content that there isn't always time for during the term. We're very grateful for our friends at the Mthatha District Office of the Department of Basic Education, who continue to support and prioritize our programmes in parallel with their own initiatives.

Ekukhuleni students on Job Shadow at Zithulele Hospital

With our teacher networks taking a break for the school holidays, we can reflect on what has been our busiest semester of meetings yet. There are still plenty of frustrating last-minute cancellations and no shows, but the trajectory is definitely a positive one, with greater regularity and deeper engagement. The highlight for the SSS Network for senior management teams (school leadership teams) was a joint session with their school governing bodies, giving a number of parents a rare opportunity to learn about and discuss their important role in the governance of schools. We've found that few schools seem to be able to engage with their parents effectively, so this will be a focus for the group moving forward.

The Axium Team celebrates five years!

In May this year Axium celebrated turning five! From a part-time team of two back then, to over twenty volunteer and associate staff now, we're immensely grateful to the outstanding people who give of their time and energies to make our work happen. In particular, we're fortunate to have had a number of high quality volunteers come through Zithulele over the past few months: Alastair, Tom, Nathan (en route!), Danielle, Alexa, Danny, Nick, Holda, Holly, Cordelia, Nadine and Hannah - we appreciate all you've done and continue to do for our students! To the rest of you, who support and encourage us in all kinds of other ways, thank you for being part of this exciting journey. Do join us as we continue to 'grow talent and opportunity' over the next five years!

Yours 'emaphandleni' (from the rurals),

Craig, Michelle and the Axium Team


In January this year we were deeply saddened by the passing of a great man of science and education. Brian Gray was immensely supportive of Axium and was instrumental in helping us establish our first teacher networks in the area. In fact, we wouldn't be here if it weren't for his encouragement and connections! Some of his legacy lives on at Science Teaching Alive, an amazing resource for science teachers in any context.

Can you help? We're looking for:

Dynamic, hardworking, 'adventurers in education' (volunteers!) - we're always looking for great people willing to volunteer their time - and have an infinite amount of things to do!
Stuff for kids: Reading books, Xhosa-English dictionaries, calculators, maths sets, solar lights… anything that will help rural kids learn!
Donations to our Tablet Fund: bringing the educational power of tablet computing to our Study Groups. (1 tablet = R1500/USD150, or part thereof, use 'Tablet' as your reference if making an EFT)
©2014 Axium Education