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Wandisile Mbengashe is not a teacher, but his initiative and action-oriented commitment to help learners change their lives has enabled an Mdantsane school to improve its 2019 maths marks by 100%, and get East London’s businesses excited about sponsoring similar initiatives.

Mbengashe’s amazing initiative led to a story in the Daily Dispatch (DD), written by Rotarian Ted Keenan, DDs Business Correspondent. Much of the original story is encapsulated below, with kind permission from DD.

Mbengashe’s own career is in itself a stunning achievement. He is the quality manager at Foxtec-Ikhwezi, a components parts manufacturer based in EL Industrial Development Zone. He was selected by his company to join the “Find Your Voice Leadership Programme” (FYV) that develops active and ethical leaders in 2018. This got him thinking about how he could do something to give back to the community.

“In 2018 I happened to drive past Sikhulule School in Mdantsane and suddenly got an urge to go inside. I asked to see the headmaster. I told him that I’m not a teacher, I can’t donate money, but I do have business skills and a degree. He was surprised but agreed to meet me the next week with a list.”

Headmaster Melumzi Mbovane said that once he had got over the initial surprise, the idea of outside assistance was appealing.

“I had been knocking on companies doors for help for years and suddenly this young professional comes knocking on mine.”
Mbovane set up a meeting with Mbengashe and the teachers, who said one of the main problems was the difficulty motivating learners’ visions of their own futures. In addition they struggled with maths and science.

“I discovered that the matric pass rate was low, and I could not stop thinking about the future of those who failed; their chances of getting a job were low,” said Mbengashe. Unfortunately, in 2018 Mbengashe’s own work and commitments, including a stint in Germany, got in the way, and he did not fulfil the aims he set himself. Last year he again went to the school, apologised for not meeting his 2018 goals, but committed to making a difference in 2019.

“I arranged with the company to take the 40 maths students on a company tour. They saw the opportunities that open up with a matric pass.”
He discussed the challenge with several of his FYV graduates. They agreed to visit the school and simply tell their own stories. From this a plan to tutor during the mid-year holidays emerged, using tertiary students who needed to earn extra cash.

He prepared a plan and used the mid-year exam 51% pass rate benchmark. A tutor spent two weeks with the math matrics and the monthly motivation sessions continued.

“Then came the exams and the wait for the results. It was stressful, I had made commitments, and I was not sure what to expect.”
When the school phoned reporting that the average maths pass went from 32% in 2018 to 64% last year, he said it was a clear signal that tutorship made a difference. and would continue in 2020. Another project, already in the pipeline, is equipping a proper laboratory and hopefully putting in a tutor on a part-time basis.

Carey-Lyn Kurten, founder and owner of Mila, is one of the founding members and course co-ordinator of FYV, said the success could be the start of serious business funding that had the potential to change the lives of thousands of learners struggling with maths.

“This alumni group are very strong. I have watched Mbengashe’s impact on the school. The programme has been a catalyst to some incredible initiatives, both in business and the community.”

“When he approached us (FYV) with his idea last year, as a group of business leaders our commitment was to offer guidance and create an environment for success. One of his FYV mentors, Pieter Bosch (a Foxtec-Ikhwezi director), suggested he test his model in 2019, and then tweak it and ramp it up this year (2020).”
“Several businesses have expressed interest in seeing this initiative scaled up this year. NPM Geomatics, Mila, Isringhausen and Foxtec are just a few.”