April 2015   


There is a strike at our school. Learners are singing at the field. Teachers are scared because learners want to fight them. Learners are scared because other learners are forcing them to strike. The strike is like a ghost thing because it looks like the thing you can't touch.
- Mveliso and Phelokazi, Grade 8 Masakhane students

2015: new year, new people, a flood of new possibilities, and much to be thankful for! The first three months of the year have been packed with opportunities to work alongside great students, teachers and members of the Zithulele community. On the rare occasion that we have time to pause, we recognise how fortunate we are to be involved in such life-bringing work, and how grateful we are to all of you who support the work of Axium in many different ways. In this newsletter we feature writingby some of these remarkable students; exciting developments at Study Groups; explosive growth in our Community Reading programme; and introductions to some new team members. We also reflect on some stellar results from our Ekukhuleni Class of 2014, with anextraordinary bunch of new university students on their way to carving out great careers in a variety of fields.

Ekukhuleni Class of 2014 at end of year prize giving

At the end of last year, Eviwe Khohlombe achieved 90% for mathematics on his school exit examinations. He is the product of twelve years of disrupted schooling in overcrowded classrooms, with scant resources and little support from home. In Grade 10 he seemed on course for a normal rural school career, finishing the year with 37% for mathematics, so his climb over two short years is remarkable. In the Eastern Cape Province, only about one hundred of the seventy thousand students who wrote the examinations will have achieved above 90% for mathematics, and of these, only a handful - about 0.01% - will have come from schools like his. Yet he did it. Despite overwhelming odds, despite atrocious conditions, despite any number of obstacles at home and at school, he did it - and is now on a fully-funded scholarship studying a BCom at the University of the Western Cape.

Before and after: Umthombo Scholars with Zithulele Hospital in the background; Kirsty with some Ekukhuleni alumni at UWC

Eviwe is one of a number of stand-out performers from the Ekukhuleni Class of 2014.We now have six students on Umthombo bursaries studying degrees in pharmacy and nursing at some great South African universities. Apart from the generous funding, the fantastic part about this bursary is that the students remain connected to Zithulele Hospital during and after the completion of their studies. Rural scholars becoming rural professionals - it's really happening! Many of our students are studying business administration at TSiBA, another innovative organisation that provides the ideal bridge from rural schooling to degree programmes and the working world. The combination of remarkable determination on our students' part, the successful conversion of their dedication into tangible results, and the rewards that follow from this process in terms of university access and funding, makes for a powerful story to share with younger students.

Study Groups on Steroids! Tulile, one of our stellar Study Group leaders with students on tablets

We're incredibly excited about the active sharing of this 'recipe' taking place through the number of young Ekukhuleni graduates we employ as peer tutors, while they wait to take up places in tertiary study in 2016. They're an inspiring bunch to watch as they take on teaching and tutoring roles in the afternoons and on Saturdays; always a passionate mixture of enthusiasm for the material they're responsible for covering and concern for the students in their care. Their work has been significantly strengthened by one hundred tablet computers loaded with the TouchTutor maths and science software, thanks to a grant from Anglo American Platinum's Lefa-la-Rona Trust. You can imagine the excitement on students' faces when they first view a video or play a maths game on the tablets, but the real value will begin to materialise when students are able to use the tablets to empower their learning outside of school time, or during 'dead time' at school. Watch this space as this project unfolds…!

Our enlarged Community Reading team; New Reader, Esona, hard at 'work'

On the subject of young people inspiring other young people, our team of Nobalisa (Community Readers) has more than doubled this year thanks to a new grant from the D.G. Murray Trust, bringing the number of people working daily with young children as they hear stories and learn to read, to eleven. We've also included a third partner school, Mhlahlane Junior, in this programme and this fledgling relationship seems to have real potential. Eventually, as their skills and confidence grow, our Community Readers will also be responsible for running community reading clubsat venues close to where they live in the afternoons, so that children have enhanced literacy opportunities both at school and at home. We're encouraged by the prospect of many more young children learning to read early on in their school careers (when they should!). Research suggests this is key to strong English acquisition later on, as well as their ability to access other subjects.

Matric Camp 2015

Some proof of just how far many of our students' language skills have come is in the plethora of online publications our students are featuring in. I encourage you to have a look at writing by Yonelwa Biko and Nkosiphendule Mkhontwana on the Fundza site. Then, if you want a taste of just how complex and troubled rural schooling can be - through the eyes of 'little' Grade 8 students - Mveliso and Phelokazi's piece is both disturbing and moving. Finally, the Mail & Guardian newspaper's excellent series 'Pupils Speak Out' features a number of articles by our students, again giving student voice to many of the education issues the adults in the room seem so incapable of addressing. Emerging from all of these young writers is an authenticity and a credibility that shouts just as loud as their budding writing skills. Staying on the theme of student exposure, for the first time this year, schools in our area participated in the national maths and science Olympiads, with two of our students progressing to the second round of the maths Olympiad. I hope you share our buzz at the thought of all this rural potential being ignited by opportunities!

The silly and the serious: Beach games at Matric Camp, Science Olympiad debuts

Alongside our seven new Community Readers, our team has been strengthened this year by the arrival of Sibusiso Qwesha (Science/Maths), Nicholas Kerswill (English) and Shannon Pasio (Careers & Study skills), all of whom are already demonstrating just why we consider ourselvesincredibly blessed to have such a diverse and competent team. Featured this newsletter in our 'meet the team' series, is Mashiya Pithi, an original Axium Boot Camper from 2009, and now one of our Khan Academy programme leaders… one more example of rural ignition!

Yours in growing rural talent and opportunity,

Craig, Michelle and the Axium Team


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!
Rugby/soccer boots (cleats) for the Tigers - if you have an old pair in the back of the cupboard, let us know, we'll arrange collection.
Stuff for kids: Reading books, Xhosa-English dictionaries, calculators, maths sets, solar lights… anything that will help rural kids learn!
Donations to our Vehicle Fund: help our Study Group team get from A to B. Currently we rely on the use of personal vehicles, but are desperately raising funds to find a longer term, lower cost solution!
©2015 Axium Education