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A wayward teenager in an overcrowded township, Ndiphiwe was similar to the other young men around him: he had little regard for rules and was always on the lookout for an opportunity. However, luckily for Ndiphiwe, it was his risk-taking behaviour which set him on the path to success, rather than taking him down the road to ruin.

“We saw an SAEP staff member dropping off apples and yoghurt at a classroom in our school,” explains Ndiphiwe, who was with four of his friends at the time. “We were hungry and wanted to steal some of the apples. We entered the classroom but were suddenly joined by a group of learners and we had to pretend to be with them.”

Unbeknownst to Ndiphiwe, he had joined SAEP’s Hope Scholar’s programme, an after school initiative for Grade 8 and 9 pupils designed to close educational gaps and provide learners with the foundation they need to succeed in later high school grades. With his name now manually printed on the Hope Scholar’s registration list, this was the start of Ndiphiwe’s journey with SAEP which carried him through high school and tertiary education.

Living in Samora Machel, and attending school at Sophumelela Secondary School in Philippi – an SAEP partner school, life was difficult for Ndiphiwe and his grandparents who were living in a shanty house on the single income of his mother who was employed as a cleaner. But, with the help of SAEP, Ndiphiwe was able to triumph over his circumstances and became the first in his family to attend tertiary education.

Now in the final year of his Electrical Engineering diploma, Ndiphiwe has this to say: “I never thought I would go to university due to my family’s financial status, and no one in my family having ever been before, but SAEP helped me to succeed. First by providing the academic support I needed in high school and then by providing the dependable, advice giving support I needed at university when I faced a new set of financial, social and academic pressures.”

And Ndiphiwe’s changing academic needs are ones that SAEP recognises: “The teaching style at university is not at all like that which township high school students are used to. It requires much more critical thought and the ability to digest high academic language. Many students struggle with time management and coupled with the massively different social dynamics and financial strain, those who lack the support of a mentor or family member who has been through university and can guide them, drop out before they can graduate,” says SAEP Tertiary Support Programme Manager, Janine Jansen.

But students like Ndiphiwe are testament to SAEP’s success in helping children and youth in need to thrive through education. Says Ndiphiwe: “I think I am going to enjoy life now. I know I am equipped with the academic qualification and training to start a career and change my life. SAEP opened many doors for me and now I can begin to to open them for myself and others.”