The Africa Foundation Community Leaders Education Fund Scholarship Program celebrates 20 years of existence this year! In September 2016, donors, friends, stakeholders, Ambassadors of the Program and graduates from the 2014 and 2015 academic years gathered to celebrate the annual Community Leaders Education Excellence Awards. These awards recognize the hard work and performance of students and celebrate their success as they embark on their future careers.
Twenty graduates, who obtained varied qualifications ranging from Bachelors of Science in Geology and Hydrology to National Diplomas in Environmental Science and many others, proudly shared their experiences during the evening. They each had touching and heart-warming experiences which they shared, and they described how the scholarship from Africa Foundation has helped to mold their lives and their families’ lives.
The South African Higher Education system has been undergoing tremendous scrutiny and turmoil with the #FeesMustFall campaign – a call from students for government to provide free higher education. While the merits of the demands are strongly debated, the reality is that tuition fees for higher education are costly. Most of the students in the communities in which Africa Foundation works are poverty-stricken and can least of all afford to pay for their higher education. Yet, their passion and commitment for learning remains.
Through Africa Foundation scholarships, these young minds and talents are given the opportunity to explore their potential. In the 20 years of the program, 438 students have graduated from various institutions of higher education in South Africa. Our work is not yet done – as we look towards the new academic year, we hope to offer more scholarships to students. Our aim for 2017 is to assist 100 students; however, in order to achieve this goal, we need to raise $277,000.
The Africa Foundation Community Leaders Education Fund Scholarship Program provides a perfect opportunity for you to become involved in helping to make a positive impact on the lives of the youth of Africa. We hope you will join us.
When I was seven years old I took my first trip to East Africa. This powerful experience changed my perception of myself and the world. When I saw children playing soccer with an old deflated ball, I realized that many things I took for granted were not available to children my own age. This realization motivated me to do something to help these children.
Once I returned to the United States, I launched a book and ball drive at my school with plans to bring the donations back to the kids in Africa. My classmates and teachers donated their lightly used books and soccer balls. Over the next ten years, I have collected over 1000 books, over 40 soccer balls, and six soccer nets. After seeing the joy on the children’s faces I knew I had to continue my efforts. At this moment it occurred to me how good it felt to give.
Since then, I have taken four more trips to East Africa bringing study guides, school supplies, and story books in Swahili, installed bathrooms and this year solar panels to power 8 classrooms and 11 offices. With the help of my parents, I have formed a non-profit organization called, Noah’s Books and Balls for Africa (www.noahsbooksandballsforafrica). Our non-profit has expanded beyond bringing books and balls, we are also collecting financial donations that will be used to improve the Misigyo Primary School buildings.
The experience of bringing needed supplies to these remote village schools has taught me that it is better to give than receive. I have also learned to appreciate and value everything I have including my ability to help others. The impact of this experience has changed my view of the world because I realized that I can make a difference.
How has the community work and the Africa Foundation impacted you?
The biggest impact my project has had on me is that it has instilled the lesson in me that it is better to give than to receive. There is such a great need in Africa, and through projects like mine, a difference is being made. Now when I go back and visit the school, I feel as though it’s a home away from home due to being greeted by familiar faces once again. Its indescribably fulfilling to hear the children read speeches to me in English, as I can really see the positive effect my project is having. Also, at Misigyo, their soccer team has gone to compete in the city and the school itself has gotten the award for the most improved school in the district. Identifying the needs of the school is key so progress can be made. A huge thanks to the Africa Foundation for identifying the needs, giving me updates, and ultimately making sure the new improvements at the school are effectively installed. All this progress and incredible new opportunities are in large part thanks to the change Noah’s Books and Balls is having on the Misigyo School.
It all started with a group of 80 women in the rural communities of Justicia, Huntington and Lillydale, who came together to utilize their passion of producing crafts, which would not only keep them busy but, more importantly, support their livelihoods. This group called their business “Madilika,” which means “crumbling walls” in the local Shangaan language.
They formed a co-operative and, with their diverse skills, ideas and visions of where they wanted to go, it became evident that to succeed, they needed to agree on what their priorities were so that they could focus on taking those initiatives forward. In time, their numbers reduced, leaving a core group of 20 members, who persevered in producing crafts. They soon realized that there was interest in beading and producing raw materials to make jewelry. With this drive, the group approached Africa Foundation for assistance to build a center from which they could work and showcase their offerings. In 2012, a proper center, ablutions and a perimeter fence were developed.
Today, the Madilika Craft Center is a landmark in the Justicia community, boasting a fresh new look after a recent revamp of the interior to enhance the display areas. This must-see attraction is ideally positioned at the entrance of the Sabi Sand Reserve, which is home to over 35 privately-owned game reserves and lodges. The convenience of its location means that visitors to these reserves are encouraged to stop-off for a browse and buy magnificent pieces of locally handcrafted jewelry and souvenirs.
A project of collaboration
Behind the success that Madilika enjoys today is a journey that has seen the collaboration of Madilika Craft Center, Africa Foundation and Global Gift Innovators, who have teamed up to assist in making Madilika Craft Center a sustainable and profitable business enterprise. For the past year, this alliance has driven the process of developing principles, structures and systems that can be replicated at other similar centers. The fruits of the commitment to develop passionate and creative crafters are paying off. For the first time since Madilika’s existence, the center is attracting the clientele it sought to reach – guests from the neighboring reserves – and its revenues are generating profits for the individual members of the group. With the business and financial skills training that has taken place, members are now able to purchase their own materials to replace inventory that has been sold. Training and coaching on producing larger numbers of products, including sought-after jewelry, and stock controls, pricing, and accounting principles are all significant for sustainability of this business model and center.
The cumulative successes of Madilika Craft Center include setting targets to increase the number of visitors, and to date, the Center has seen its revenue grow to over $19,000 since January 2016 with over 1,000 visitors, allowing the members to set aside 5% of their sales into a reserve account. Transparent accounting and record-keeping systems ensure that members, for the first time, have access to accounting information with each member understanding the inflow and outflow of money.
These are the early days of a successful journey, with the center aiming to generate revenues of at least $69,000 in two years’ time. Madilika Craft Center is an example of the success that can be attributed to collaboration by seeking synergies with like-minded groups and individuals. The entrepreneurial expertise of Global Gift Innovators, the developmental expertise of Africa Foundation and the willingness and passion of the Madilika Craft Center members are the result of trust, endurance and dedication of these parties to drive success.
We first met Sumayi James when we visited Lukungu School near Grumeti in 2006 and the projects the Africa Foundation were undertaking there. Sumayi was the Maths teacher, and we couldn’t help being impressed with this fine young woman. She was already a Local Champion who, in addition to her teaching duties, was reaching out to AIDS victims in the community and continues to look after AIDS orphans in her own home.
So, when the opportunity arose, the Africa Foundation were pleased to sponsor Sumayi to attend a two-year Diploma course in Early Learning at the Tanzanian College of Early Learning in Korogwe, so that she could take these extra skills back into her community.
As a result, Sumayi gave up her teaching job at Lukungu, left her three young children at home and – with the blessing of her very supportive husband and the community – took her place at the College to gain her Diploma.
My husband, Robin is the Chairman of Africa Foundation UK and we had promised Sumayi we would attend her Graduation, so, on 4th June 2010 we travelled out to Tanzania and were met at Kilimanjaro Airport early in the morning by Ernest Mgonho from &Beyond Foundation, and Jeremiah, Sumayi’s husband, who had come up from Lamadi near Mwanza on Lake Victoria.
We set off for the four hour journey to Korogwe, following the road to Dar es Salaam about 100 kms inland, through flat arid land, with the dramatic Usambara range of mountains running alongside us, then through extensive sisal farms, and climbing through the lush, almost tropical, foothills to reach Korogwe.
On the morning of the graduation, we gathered at the entrance to the College, established by Norwegians in 2001, and situated outside Korogwe with a beautiful view over the hills. Students, teachers and graduates, resplendent in their robes, had begun to sing and dance as the band played. Then, at a signal from the Principal, the band led the happy procession singing and swaying up the drive to the College and into the beautifully decorated main hall, open on all sides to the cooling breeze, packed with dignitaries, students from the College and from the Primary and Secondary schools associated with the college.
There was a full programme of events – performances from the school children from Hill View Primary and Hill View Secondary Schools, including poetry, a fashion show, recitals, dancing and singing and a particularly moving solo from a teenage AIDS orphan who had composed the hauntingly beautiful song himself, and which brought tears to many eyes. The graduates each gave a dissertation on a certain person in history who had made a significant contribution to early child care/education – Sumayi chose Maria Montessori as her subject.
The dignitaries, who comprised the Principal of the College, Chairman of the Governors, representatives from the Ministry of Health and Welfare, Administration of Children’s Rights, Law and Constitution, the Ruling CCM Party, the Water Board, and the District Doctor who attended to the students needs, all spoke eloquently and at length and then Robin and I were both called on to address the assembled crowd. Then the Principal awarded each Graduate their certificate, and their family and friends draped their candidate with brightly coloured garlands while everyone clapped and laughed.
So much preparation and forethought had gone into ensuring the success of this happy occasion and afterwards we were treated to lunch set out in the large dining hall, also open on all sides to take advantage of any cool air during the intense heat of the day.
That evening Sumayi had organised a special dinner at a local restaurant in Korogwe which was a joyous event, to thank the Africa Foundation as sponsors, to say goodbye to some of the graduates and teachers who had become her friends and to celebrate a tremendous achievement. There were more speeches, although this time one of the teachers acted as interpreter from Swahili to English, and the other way round when it was Robin and my turn to say our thanks. We congratulated Sumayi on a superb effort to achieve second place overall for the year, and we thanked her husband , Jeremiah, and the rest of her family for their amazing support which made it possible for her to spend two years so far away.
The Tanzanian Government is encouraging all Primary Schools to build a separate Pre-school and the Africa Foundation have raised funds to construct a Pre-school and OVC day-care centre next to the Lukungu Primary School – of which Sumayi will be the Principal. We hope that this Pre-school will become a centre of excellence for the surrounding areas, and that Sumayi will be able to use her qualifications to train local teachers wanting to specialise in Early Learning and to advise on the setting up of other Pre-Schools in the area and beyond.
It is with extremely heavy hearts that we convey the passing of Robin James, Chairman of Africa Foundation (UK) and trustee of Africa Foundation South Africa. Rob’s incredible legacy of uplifting the rural communities of Africa began 25 years ago, when he was a part of the visionary team that founded Africa Foundation. Back then, Rob had provided the organisation’s initial seed funding and was instrumental in charting its course to present day.
A truly dedicated and passionate individual, Rob’s steadfast commitment to empowering people through access to education, health and economic opportunities meant that he had an extraordinary impact on the lives of thousands of people. His daily dedication was unwavering and his years of service to the cause was unparalleled by any other. Our gratitude and words will never suffice. His wisdom and selfless contribution will truly be missed.
From all at Africa Foundation – we thank you Rob.
Rob is survived by his wife Judy and his children Stuart and Richard – our thoughts are with you all.
Photo from left: the late Lance Japhet, former Chairman of Africa Foundation; Africa Foundation Patron Archbishop Desmond Tutu; and the late Robin James, Chairman of Africa Foundation (UK)