This summer, I worked at IkamvaYouth. Ikamva is a non-profit organisation, that provides supplementary after school tutoring to high school students from grade 8 until grade 12. It equips students with the necessary resources to help them access tertiary institutions and other internship or job opportunities once they graduate. Having worked with Ikamva during my winter quarter of 2012, I went back yet again. This time, as a tutor and with the intention of creating standard Math and Science syllabi for tutors to use.
I got to Cape Town on the 24th of June, and started my work with Ikamva on the 25th. My first three weeks coincided with Winter school. Although the students were on holiday, they still attended lessons and educational workshops from 9am to 4pm, hosted at the University of Cape Town. During these three weeks I tutored the different grades in Computer Literacy, English and overall helped where I was needed. These first three weeks were a wonderful time to get to know the students and the tutors well. It was inspiring to see how much dedication and time, both on the tutors' and students' parts, goes into helping these students succeed and making the organisation the success that it has become.
My experience at Winter School led me to make changes in my project. I realised that there were a lot tutors who focused on Math and Science, and that a lot of time was spent on tutoring learners in those subjects. Tutoring was done in such a way that it was focused on topics nominated by students, on account of them being tricky or difficult. As a result, I realised, a standard syllabi would not be useful in the long run, because each year students might find different topics harder or easier than the previous year's students.
Another realisation during that time was that students' command of English, both written and spoken, was dissatisfactory, yet very little time was spent overall on tutoring English. Neither the tutors nor the students were comfortable speaking English, a second language, to one another, when they could simply speak their native Xhosa and understand each other better. This would be fine if the potentially life altering matric exams that the Grade 12 students have to take were not written in English. More over, South Africa's main operating language is English, so in order to succeed, one must be able to speak English well.
This is what led me to change my project. I decided to focus on English instead of Math and Science. Another Stanford student, Rose, conducted research to establish the logistics of how the organisation could create a sustainable program that would help students improve their English. I, on the other hand, wanted to help create the resources to be used in this program. I wanted to create exercises that would build students' ability and confidence in written and spoken English. For the last 5 weeks at Ikamva, I found out what the students struggled to understand, from listening to them speak in English, from reading their English work as well as from talking to the other tutors. I got in touch with another organisation in the area that teaches "functional english", in order to get ideas on how to structure the resources and the lessons. The internet was also a great resource for looking at existing English resources.
I realised very early on in the 5 weeks that I had a challenge ahead of me. How would I ensure that these exercises went into use? There was also no way that I could create an indefinite amount of resources to sustain the program for the years to come. Both Rose and I wanted the English program to continue even after we had left Cape Town. Luckily, two incoming tutors, Lwazi and Sandz, were very keen on seeing the organisation establish a sustained English Program for the learners. These tutors and I teamed up to come up with not only exercises, but detailed guidelines and resources on how to create more exercises, for the next tutors who would take on the program. We implemented some of the exercises during tutoring sessions, and the students really loved them and gave great feedback for further improvements.
Working with Ikamva again was an incredible experience. I have become attached to the organisation, its tutors, learners, and all that it stands for- empowering the next generation of South Africa's leaders. I hope to continue remotely contributing my efforts towards making Ikamva's efforts as fruitful as they have come to be.
-- Tumisang Madigele