Tutor programme helps pupils to the top

In just 18 months, a Manenberg non-profit organisation (NPO) has managed to increase the mathematics results of high school pupils phenomenally – thanks to its tutoring programme.

Step Aboard, launched in June last year, works with 50 Grade 10 and Grade 11 pupils from The Leadership College and Silverstream High School.

Many who are part of the programme, managed to score an A-symbol for mathematics, when, in the past, some of them could not even manage a score of 50 percent. Step Aboard tutored only Grade 10 pupils last year, and as they progressed to the next Grade, so too Grade 11 pupils were added onto the programme.

Although the programme focuses mainly on mathematics, tutors also assist those who struggle with other subjects.

The top achievers this year in Grade 10 and Grade 11 at Silverstream High School, are both members of the Step Aboard group. And two Grade 11 pupils from The Leadership College, won gold at the Western Cape leg of the Eskom Regional (provincial) Expo for Young Scientists. The pair – Taahir van Schoor and Mayamiko Kubalasa – were also among 20 pupils chosen to represent the Western Cape at the International Science Fair, which was held in Gauteng.

Pastor Sam Henkeman, the founder and chairman of Step Aboard, said his organisation wants to ensure the success of children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Tutoring takes place every Saturday from 10am to 12.30pm at The Leadership College.

The programme does have its challenges, Mr Henkeman said. This include pupils from the different schools not being at the same section of the curriculum. What exacerbates this, he said, is that the pupils are also at different levels of understanding.

“In order to deal with these kinds of challenges, we use more than one tutor in a class, and pupils are grouped into the schools they attend. We cater for a maximum of 20 pupils per group. We also work closely with the teachers, who will indicate to us what their area of concern is and what they are busy with. Our idea is to have a maths summit that will include all maths teachers from Grade 10 to Grade 12, in order to start a conversation on how we can establish a foundation for pupils in Manenberg, which can be duplicated in other communities. Our ultimate dream is to establish a tutor school in Manenberg, as this will go a long way to address the inequality and give the children on the Cape Flats with potential, an opportunity to achieve great heights. This vision is coupled with leadership development and alternative dispute resolution, to enable the holistic development of the pupils. At the moment, there is nothing on the Cape Flats to facilitate the improvement of maths and science,” Mr Henkeman said.

He believes the programme works so well, because the pupils can relate to their tutors. The latter are all from Manenberg and are all university students now. Of the three studying at the University of Cape Town (UCT), two are third-year chemical engineering students and one is a second-year BCom financial accounting student. Two other tutors are third-year electrical engineering students at Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT).

The organisation has also partnered with the Department of Social Development, private funders and is in the process of “forging collaborations with surrounding universities”.

Rashid Domingo, a South African living in Wales, is among the private donors. He recently donated funds, as well as a vehicle to help transport the pupils to their tutoring venue, as it can become challenging for the pupils to walk in the area when gang violence is rife.

In’aam Colbie is among the first who joined Step Aboard last year, and within three months, she scored a code 7 for maths for the first time in high school.

“Step Aboard has been the most interesting and valuable platform for me and my community. I have never been more excited to come to class since it started. It’s also nice that I get to interact with pupils from other schools. Being part of Step Aboard has boosted my confidence, and I will definitely give back once I’m in the same position as our tutors. The Step Aboard family are the youth of Manenberg’s hope and I am grateful to be part of this wonderful experience. I would like to thank the tutors and Mr Henkeman for allowing us to believe in ourselves,” In’aam said.

Hishaam de Vries, a Grade 10 pupil from Manenberg, who attends Vista Nova High School, said in the first quarter he managed to score 62 percent for mathematics, but after joining the programme, this increased to 82 percent in the third quarter.

“The extra lessons on Saturdays helped me to understand my lessons at school much easier,” Hishaam said.

Nathanzo Schultz described the programme as welcoming and educational.

“I can assure you it not only made a difference in my life, but also my fellow pupils. I have the highest of gratitude to all who helped us and rewarded me with knowledge,” Nathanzo said.

Taahir said mathematics has always been his favourite subject, and he has always been good at it, but found himself struggling with it, lately.

“We are taught maths without ever getting bored. When I struggled with maths, this organisation helped me to get back on track. The programme has helped me in many ways.”