Helping to grow the social fabric of the township it supports, the South African Education and Environment Project (SAEP) recently launched its new peer support programme, the Buddy System, in Philippi. Connecting young members from its primary school programme with older, high school learners from another of its initiatives, the programme aims to keep these children in school by providing young children with support, and older children with a sense of purpose and responsibility as they take on new mentorship roles.
“There are very few role models for the children of Philippi. Young people who have successfully made it through the education system usually move away to pursue careers and lives in more affluent areas. The young children they leave behind are without good examples of how to persevere and succeed at school and life and often get derailed and dropout,” explains Khuselwa Mxatule, SAEP Primary School Programme Coordinator.
And, while SAEP works to encourage parental involvement, the priority of most adults in the community is to find and keep work, leaving little or no time to support and guide their children. This means that for many children, and particularly those without siblings, no one is available to take an interest in their lives and keep them headed in the right direction.
Realising this gap and seeing an opportunity, staff from SAEP’s primary and high school programmes which operate in nearby schools, partnered to their connect their learners with the hopes of establishing a stronger social support network amongst the children.
Equipped with a year of life skills classes presented through the high school programme, a total of 30 Grade 9 leaners from Zisukhanyo and Sophumelela High Schools, have taken up roles as mentoring buddies to 40 Grade 4 learners from Siyazakha Primary School as part of the Buddy System pilot programme initiated this June.
Meeting once a month, the Grade 9s leave their schools and cross the busy bridge from Samora Machel to Browns Farm to meet their mentees at their school. Leading them in fun, educational activities put together by SAEP staff, the guides gain experience in leader- and mentorship roles while their young wards develop a heightened sense of belonging. All the children involved have an opportunity to grow their confidence, self-esteem and the social skills they need to stay in school.
And, with the monthly meetings already underway, there is much hope and anticipation for the project. Says Grade 4 learner, Athandile Ngayeka: “I had so much fun on Friday, when is the next one? I cannot wait to meet my new friends from Sophumelela again. They promised to take care of me when I go to high school.”
SAEP supports and motivates children and young people in need to thrive through education, life skills and psycho-social support. With a primary focus on the township of Philippi in the Western Cape, SAEP’s programmes provide support at critical developmental milestones from early childhood to young adulthood. SAEP relies on donor funding to run its programmes, to make a donation, visit our donate page here.