Balondolozi Community Support – Alexandra Education Committee (AEC)
Balondolozi actively supports the Alexandra Education Committee (AEC) founded in 1996 who exist to provide bursaries for academically promising learners from low-income families in Alexandra for the full five years of high school education at well-resourced schools outside of Alexandra. The list of participating schools include Highlands North Boys High School, Liberty Community Schools, Sacred Heart College, Sandringham High School, Sekolo Sa Borokgo (SSB), SAHETI, St David’s Marist Inanda, St Mary’s Waverley, Waverley Girls’ High School and Waterford Kamhlaba Swaziland. Currently, in access of 180 learners benefit from this initiative. The organization intends to increase the number of beneficiaries to about 250 over the next three years.
The AEC in the main runs three programmes.
Programme 1 – Offers five levels of support to the successfully selected learners: financial, academic, vocational, pastoral and alumni networking.
The bursary covers school fees, transport to and from school (where required), school uniform, stationery, food, extra lessons on Saturdays and during school holidays, afternoon support as well as access to computers and a well-resourced library. In addition the committee pays for eye testing, glasses as well as other medical requirements where necessary.
The AEC supports the recipients of the bursaries, tracks their progress and maintains contact with the relevant schools. During term time, Saturday School is run for all the grade 8-12 AEC bursary recipients. Extra Maths, Physical Science, English and Afrikaans classes are taught. Accounting and coding lessons have also been offered as electives.
In addition, the AEC runs a separate Saturday programme for Grade 7 learners from primary schools in Alexandra to prepare them for high school.
The Matric preparation begins in Grade 11 when each pupil undertakes aptitude and vocational assessments; thereafter they are given personal feedback. Every year the Matric students are invited to a Careers Day organised by Rotary. AEC assists them further in their Matric year with university applications and tertiary bursary applications. Once Matric results have been published, assistance with applications and bursaries continues. AEC offers financial assistance for university registration and provides donated laptops where possible.
The AEC has a community worker who, prior to final selection of bursary recipients to the programme, visits the families of applicants to assess the economic and domestic status of the home, and reports back to the AEC on her findings. This vital information is a key part of determining whether a bursary should be awarded or not. Her services also include identifying bursary recipients and families who are in need of support, either with personal problems (such as loss of possessions and accommodation as a result of shacks burning down or being flooded) or lack of income. She is well versed in applying for housing, grants and food parcels, etc. within the community.
AEC allocates each bursary recipient a mentor from the business world or AEC alumni. The mentors are active in the children’s lives, taking an interest in their well-being and progress at school, as well as taking them on outings
so that they get to know them well. The AEC holds workshops for the mentors, termly picnics and an annual braai. Moreover, the well-being of each bursary recipient is monitored by a member of staff who acts as a counsellor, following up on academic progress as well as personal issues, communicating with schools’ management, counsellors and our community worker where required.
The AEC Alumni
The AEC has an active alumni group which meets on a regular basis and supports the AEC where possible. Many of their alumni have gone on to make a success of their lives in well-respected professions and are now well positioned to give back to the AEC. Currently 2 of them who are qualified accountants sit on our Finance Committee. Strong relationships are formed between the staff and the bursary recipients. Recent alumni visit the AEC offices regularly after leaving school for ongoing advice, counselling and the use of facilities such as the computers. There is a sense that many alumni form a bond with the AEC which endures.
Programme 2 – Grade 7 Academic Enrichment Programme
Over and above the Saturday School programme for high school learners on bursaries, the AEC run classes for grade 7’s on Saturday mornings in Maths and English for those learners recommended by partner primary schools. The AEC assesses the learners’ progress throughout the year and offers bursaries for high school where all criteria are met.
Programme 3 – Teacher Workshops
The AEC runs teacher development workshops in Maths, English and Science to teachers from schools in and around Alexandra. This programme strengthens education in Alexandra for maximum impact beyond the core business of selecting children of talent for bursaries.
Balondolozi partnered with the AEC in 2019 and made its first financial contribution for eleven learners who were adopted by Balondolozi for the five year high school period 2019 – 2023. The financial contribution will be made annually. Secondly and of greater benefit, the learners are mentored by investment analysts who joined Balondolozi as graduate interns themselves in 2015.
The mentors and their mentees met at beginning of 2020 at a picnic arranged by the AEC. After the initial meeting there was a great sense of enthusiasm from all the mentors. They were captivated by their mentees and somehow felt like they were perfectly matched together. The analysts were impressed with their future career options which in some cases were sparked by personal experiences. Examples of career options are neurologist, doctor, botanist, astronomer scientist, lawyer and graphic designer. It is also notable that these learners come from mainly single parent households and share the small space they reside at with many family members.
Being top achievers and recipients of Olympiad and school competition awards it is not hard to believe that these learners will achieve what they set out to become. The learners are very grateful for being granted bursaries. They see this as an opportunity to help not only themselves, but also their siblings and parents.
Despite having to focus on school and all the pressure associated with that, the learners maintain a balanced life. They create the time enjoy their hobbies and participate in extra mural activities including singing, coding classes and robotics, swimming, tennis, reading and chess.
Even though this partnership is relatively new, the mentorship programme has already been beneficial to the mentees. Being mentored by an investment professional, Sibu has learnt the principle of saving and budgeting. She mentions that she had plans to save up for the purchase of a cellphone. She was not successful in raising the funds needed for the cellphone but is however still positive that she will achieve this goal on time to gift herself when she turns 16.
This is an ongoing programme for Balondolozi and we are excited to see how it progresses and expands.