St Mary’s School in Waverley celebrates 20 years of the Alexandra Schools’ Community Affairs project

| April 6, 2011 | 0 Comments
In 1990, Margie Southey started the Alexandra Schools’ Community Affairs Project at St Mary’s School.

The project first involved primary school children from Alexandra township using the classrooms at St Mary’s Junior School. Twenty years later, the project has enrolled 225 boys and girls in grades 10, 11 and 12 from Alex. To celebrate, a reunion was held in May 2010 to enable past learners to visit St Mary’s again and connect with teachers and classmates. A large number of past learners have university degrees or are studying at universities. Many others are employed in banks, sales, information technology and marketing. A database of alumni has been established.

A diverse range of skills for project participants
The St Mary’s Alexandra Schools’ Community Affairs project focuses on Mathematics and Physical Science, and English. The Life Sciences and Geography are also taught. The project employs experienced, dedicated and caring staff – a number of whom are St Mary’s current and retired teachers. All learners attending classes have to pass an entrance test. Classes are held on Saturdays for five hours using the classrooms, computer and science facilities at St Mary’s Senior School for 11 months of the year. St Mary’s is well-equipped with interactive whiteboards and the latest educational programmes and software, which are used by the project. A programme lasting a week during every school holiday is also held at a local recreation centre. The Grades 10 and 11 learners attend courses in study skills, emotional intelligence, public speaking and computer skills. Baking and making chocolates are also taught to these pupils, as part of the entrepreneurial programme. Learners contribute R100 per year and  transport, books, stationery and sandwiches are supplied. A small library is available for use by students in Grades 10 and 11.

An improved pass rate due in part to quality mentors
The pass rate of learners participating in the project has fluctuated between 88% and 96% since 2003: it aims to improve the number of Grade 12 pupils who score enough points to be accepted at universities. Over the past four years, the number of students who have qualified for acceptance at universities has been between 52% and 65%. Annually, most of the top learners in Alexandra have been enrolled at St Mary’s. Each year, the top 10 to 15 pupils on the project qualify for a number of bursaries and scholarships.

The Grade 12 learners are twinned with mentors, who are drawn from the St Mary’s parent body, past students from the project and members of the Johannesburg French community. The mentors assist the learners to complete university applications and arrange outings to museums, galleries, restaurants, cinemas, universities and places of interest.

A busy year
In 2010, all pupils on the project had their eyes tested, and spectacles were donated to those with visual needs. Nature’s Choice – a leading South African health food distributor – gave a presentation on healthy eating, and all learners were given dried vegetable packs. Ten Grade 12 boys accompanied St David’s College to the Scifest in Grahamstown in March. Other planned field trips included visits to the Sasolburg Science Festival, the Ford Motor Corporation Careers Day, St Mary’s Careers Evening and the Cell C Take a Girl Child to Work Day.

St Mary’s senior girls assist the project by making sandwiches, helping in the computer room, assisting with Physical Science practical work, invigilating tests and entrance examinations, marking, compiling stationery packs and processing library books.

2010 Matric results
The St Mary’s Alexandra Schools’ Community Affairs project celebrates the achievements of its learners. The pass rate for 2010 was 88% as opposed to the 47% achieved by other Alexandra pupils. Our scholars achieved 34 distinctions and 31 of the 72 learners achieved university entrance passes. This is impressive against the 10% of other Alexandra pupils. Elphus Kgatla was our top learner with three distinctions. He has been awarded a bursary by the Tomorrow Trust to study Engineering.

Linda Giuricich is Director of Community Affairs at St Mary’s School.

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Category: Autumn 2011

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