School mentor project moulds future champions

A WAVE of excellence has coursed through Umbilo Secondary School, thanks to a mentor programme created and focused on moulding champions out of grade 12 pupils.

The Champions mentor programme (CPM) founded last January (2015), focuses on inspiring and motivating matric pupils to reach their full potential with the help of 32 mentors.

The mentors include parents and ordinary members of the community who have no children in Umbilo but who have partnered with the school. “This started as an intervention to help improve the declining Matric results. Each parent adopts a group of children(6-8) and is assigned to inspire and motivate them. They are also there to help understand the challenges the child goes through and act in support both to the learner and to the educators,” said Gail Richards, Umbilo Mentor.

The programme was initially started because pupils were finding difficulty in Physics.The school had a 45 % pass rate in 2014 in Physics and by the end of last year, it increased to 75% in Physics. Having a good internal Physics educator at Umbilo, more committed and interested learners , interested parents and mentors ,with some external support is a winning strategy.”The programme developed from there and seeped its way into other Matric subjects. The overall pass rate in the school was increased from 75.3 % 2014 to 82.32 % in 2015,” said an elated Richards.

The increase in pass rates in the school shows the relationship between the mentors , educators and pupils has had a huge impact and also how the programme is growing in momentum.

The 2016 co-ordinator is Patsy Anderson. She highlighted the following, “The programme is a turn-around strategy. This means we aim to turn around results, supporting holding holiday teaching programmes , and developing the learners study skills through workshops or simply through an excursion or visit to UKZN or a University of Technology . We also focus on challenging the learners and initiate , support and together with the School,host motivational empowerment programmes. We encourage our pupils to also attend Sunday study group sessions at the school and Mentors have turns supervising Sunday group sessions,” said Anderson.

The programme, which incorporates learning resources such as study guides, books and external tuition, is funded by an amazing, aggressive fundraising team, headed by Tania Maistry another mentor and community member . It relies on the generosity of the community , local businesses and professionals some who have pledged a once-off R300 towards the mentorship. Fundraising includes curry evenings, breakfasts, raffles and other fundraising events also contributed towards the programme, raising in excess of a whopping R80,000 in 2015 and this year promises to be even higher . “This allows us to assist the school in paying for the necessities to enable our matrics to take their learning further,” said Richards.

CPM has been taken a bigger step by implementing a counselling and motivational section with external motivators, including Patrick Coetzee from Dream Builders. He is fundamental in challenging pupils to recognise their potential. “Coming from a community with so many social ills, the youth get caught up in it. Many don’t believe their worth and lack confidence in themselves. So people like Patrick are there to give them that belief and instil hope in them that they are beyond their problems,” explained Anderson. CPM has also partnered with Wits University lecturer, Prof Lionel Green-Thompson who is involved and pledged a partnership in teacher development.

As South Africa celebrates youth month, Richards reminds the youth of the significant role the class of 1976 played in the apartheid struggle. “We acknowledge that we have our own challenges in this generation of young people, and we want to show them they can be the key to altering their futures. But equally, the social capital and solution sit in every community …In order for this to be done, the mindsets and culture must change. They need to actively participate in their own destiny and CPM is here to tell them they don’t have to do it alone. With good educators and a good school like Umbilo , our guidance, mentorship and love they can soar as high as they like,” said Richards.

The programme has renewed hope in the pupils. It is creating a new culture of educated minds and most importantly a new work ethic. Pupils are looking forward to learning thanks to the team of dedicated mentors.
“This programme is designed to give back to the school , to the community and arm the learners with not only knowledge but life skills. It is also there to challenge ourselves as parents and our role in supporting education. We are preparing the learners for life and we encourage parents and community members to be part of the change by becoming a mentor or support the fundraisers, where every cent paid directly into the school separate Matric Fund goes towards study tools and tuition. If we put care, love and motivation in these children and focus on working and supporting each other, we can develop them into future leaders, but mostly as we celebrate youth month, we also want to acknowledge the committed educators, exceptional leadership at Umbilo school and thank the selfless, inspirational Mentors from all different walks of life who are helping make SA and Wentworth a better place, The Umbilo programme is certainly a good story and evidence of It takes a village to raise a child “ended Richards.
For more information contact co-ordinator, Patsy Anderson on 081-270-3682 or if you would like to make a donation , once off pledge or just support the Umbilo Champion Mentor programme , please contact Tania Maistry on 072-641-2716.

Lauren Beukes

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