Tuesday, 09 April 2013 00:00


Written by  Cindy Payle

If schools hope to unlock learner potential they will need to provide support outside of the traditional academic curriculum delivered during class time. According to Spurgeon Wilson, spokesperson for Rachel's Angels, children need a place to engage with teachers in a way that cannot always be achieved during a standard teaching lesson.

There are a few dedicated teachers who offer extra lessons but these cases are very rare. For the most part educators are not willing to invest in the future of their learners beyond the classroom, says Wilson.
A lack of funding and resources are also barriers to providing additional educational support to learners, especially those from previously disadvantaged regions.

Moreover children require support in many areas, including emotional, social and physical support. As Wilson asserts "a hungry child cannot learn".
Empowering learners holistically is key to their development and success. This concept is central to the mentorship programme provided by Rachel's Angels, a Media24 initiative.
"We can not only focus on academic support. We have to address every area of life in order to develop a much more disciplined and well rounded learner."
At Rachel's Angels this holistic support is achieved through a two year mentor- protégé relationship which exists within a supportive framework. The mentors, who are senior students from Stellenbosch University, are instrumental in helping learners improve their academic ability and enrich their life skills.
Wilson describes how learners blossom under the tutelage of these volunteers. "Having someone who believes in them makes all the difference."
The mentors who volunteer their time and efforts receive shares in media24 as an incentive and reward for their contribution.
Learners in grade 11 are selected from 20 different schools to participate in this initiative.The learners that are selected are generally not the top performers but rather those who fall in the 50% to 60% performance bracket.
One of the primary objectives is to improve their academic scores in order to render them eligible to enter a higher education field of study. Reports from the 2010/2011 cycle show that 74% of the learners achieved a quality pass enabling access to BA programmes.
Wilson says that out of the 140 learners that participated in the programme 40 students enrolled in Stellenbosch University with the help of bursaries and financial support. While it is not the goal of the initiative to promote higher learning at Stellenbosch University, the fact that so many learners received the opportunity to study at such a prestigious institution has been warmly welcomed.
This programme has demonstrated what can be achieved when businesses choose to play their role in the development of the youth, which will have positive returns for industry and the economy as a whole.

How can business get involved?

One idea is to duplicate the model presented by Rachel's Angels. Businesses can take the guess work out of helping learners by adopting these programmes. It would also be beneficial to investigate similar programmes that have proven its effectiveness.
Wilson advises business to 'start small'. Starting with one school and a small group of learners is a good way to ease into this youth development.
For businesses that are not ready or able to establish these initiatives, providing financial support to existing programmes is a great alternative.

For more information visit Rachels Angels

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