By Deidre Alcock and Kenda Knowles
Living in a time when it is so easy to become absorbed by our own lives and our materialistic desires, it is important to preserve the act of selflessness.
Social responsibility forms an integral part of Holy Rosary School’s ethos. We strive to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others, so that our girls will cultivate a social conscience and develop into young women of courage, compassion, humility and responsibility. We do this is many ways: internally through service to the school via public relations and hospitality, and externally through
outreach committees dedicated to various portfolios and projects, charity drives throughout the year and our very own Saturday school – the Phumelela Outreach Programme (POP).
How it began
POP was created in 2011 through a collaborative effort between three Johannesburg schools: Holy Rosary High School, located in Edenvale; St Benedict’s College in Bedfordview; and Ekurhuleni Primary School (EPS), situated in the informal settlement of Dikathole in Germiston. Phumelela, meaning ‘succeed’ in Zulu, was chosen as an appropriate name to describe the purpose of the programme. Holy Rosary School invited the top 30 EPS learners of 2010 to participate in the programme in 2011. A further 21 EPS Grade 8 students joined the year after, and in January 2015 the first group of Grade 8 learners reached Grade 12. POP now has 96 students, who attend various high schools in Germiston and Boksburg.
How it works
The POP students attend classes every Saturday at Holy Rosary School, transported from Germiston by St Benedict’s College. Their morning is packed with academic lessons, as well as enrichment in life skills, music and culture, sport and general
knowledge. The students are provided with breakfast and lunch.
The programme aims to:
• academically enrich students from the Dikathole informal settlement – first in English and mathematics, and then, from Grade 10, in other subjects such as life sciences, geography and accounting
• give students life skills that are not taught in the general academic curricula, such as learning to swim, painting, crafts, public speaking and acting, playing marimbas and drums, singing, basic first aid, self-defence and various sports
• grow general knowledge and enrich the students’ worldviews
• create opportunities to experience different people, places and environments through outings to, for example, the theatre, bird parks, television studios, museums and airports
• enrich these young lives as holistically as possible and, in the process, help grow their self-confidence and self-belief. Over the years, we have become aware of the deteriorating circumstances of the already-difficult conditions in which the students live. More and more students are being orphaned and becoming heads of households, more students’ parents are without work, and life on the whole is getting harder. To this end, we now collect food parcels, clothing and some essential toiletries for them. We also assist where we can with some medical requirements or small emergencies.
How it is funded
For the first four years, the project was funded by the money raised by Holy Rosary debutantes. However, as the pupil numbers have grown and the Saturday school is almost at capacity, additional funding is being sought. To meet various funding criteria, a separate trust – The Holy Rosary Outreach Trust – has been formed, and operates as a completely separate entity to the school.
We are now in the fortunate position of being able to track the students’ progress from Grade 8 to Grade 12, and to determine where we can improve or change things to maximise impact. Academically, we monitor progress and stumbling blocks through tests, projects and examinations, as well as mid-year and end-of-year reports.
However, the most remarkable difference we are able to observe is in the psyche and emotions of our students. We see their growth in self-esteem, confidence, skills, motivation levels and overall general knowledge. The increase in their ‘worldliness’ comes from the excursions they go on and life enrichment sessions, which give them insight into and experience of the world outside their everyday environment in informal settlements.
Their ability and confidence to speak, both in the classroom and on stage, has developed exponentially over five years. This is most evident during their annual concert, where many students ‘come alive’ on stage in dance, singing, acting and speaking. These are the times that they can truly escape their difficult circumstances and, for a few moments, show their magnificent inner core of raw talent, passion and potential. For the teachers, staff, Holy Rosary Sisters, sponsors and students involved in the Phumelela programme, this is an tremendously emotional event. It is then that we are reminded of the talents of these young people, and the potential that is just waiting to be nurtured, grown and supported.
The final outcome
Ultimately, over the five years that the students attend the programme, they will have benefited enormously in their academics, cultural exposure, personal development and social skills. This will hopefully enable them to achieve better matric results, and both the possibility and opportunity to pursue tertiary education, or enter the job market. For the first group of matric leavers, POP will now be looking at bursaries, internships and employment opportunities to assist them in building a better life and more positive future than what they may have been faced with on their own.
Deidre Alcock is part of the marketing team at Holy
Rosary School. Kenda Knowles is the Marketing and Foundation Manager.