Three young people from a small town in South Africa’s Mpumalanga province are helping to re-shape perceptions about what’s possible for students from the country’s notoriously dysfunctional rural education system.
“The odds are stacked against students from rural areas. Class sizes are large and pass rates are small,” says Caitlin Graaf, Marketing & Communications Manager for Imagine Scholar – an afterschool mentorship programme that bridges the gap between what the system provides and the standards expected by tertiary education institutions and employers.
“The frustration of under-resourced schools and a collapsing education infrastructure underpins an erroneous belief that students from rural areas are situationally predisposed to failure,” she adds.
Imagine Scholar is an intensive five-year mentorship programme for highly motivated secondary school students who attend classes six times a week on top of their public schooling schedule. Through a unique curriculum, students enhance critical thinking, build character, develop effective communication skills, and create social entrepreneurship projects.
Graaf says that over the last six years, students on the programme have accomplished some amazing things. “Imagine Scholar prepares students to excel at university and professionally. Most importantly, it empowers young leaders to act as catalysts for personal change and to provide a service to their communities.”
Rodger Chinhangue, Justice Masinge, and Samkelisiwe Chissano are the latest participants from the programme to break the mould of what it means to be a student from rural South Africa, having collected R2.7 million in scholarships to pursue continued education at world-class institutions.
Rodger Chinhangue was one of just six young South Africans accepted to complete his high school career at the prestigious United World College. Rodger, UWC class of 2018, is currently completing his International Baccalaureate at the sleekly designed UWC Dilijan in Armenia. He received an $80 000 scholarship to complete his two years at UWC Dilijan.
Justice Masinge, who established local chess tournaments to share his passion and foster critical thinking skills for youth in the Nkomazi region, was accepted this year into the African Leadership Academy with a full $60 000 scholarship.
Samkelisiwe Chissano also received the honour of acceptance into the African Leadership Academy, her and Justice calling two spots out of the pool of just 120 of the brightest young minds in Africa. Samkelisiwe, a top-performing student and recent attendee to the Yale Young Global Scholar’s program in New Haven, Connecticut, also received $60 000 in scholarships to complete her studies.
Graaf comments: “Two of the top educational institutions in the world, United World College and African Leadership Academy send students on to Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and Oxford each year. Their stringent application processes ensure only the most promising students join the ranks. Undoubtedly, it is not common for students from rural South Africa to crack into this echelon of academia.
The province of Mpumalanga has never seen a student attend the United World College or African Leadership Academy who has not gone through the Imagine Scholar program. It is also worth noting that these students are not the first, nor will they be the last”.
– Adapted from Press release