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Learners from impoverished communities in South Africa such as Walmer Township, Port Elizabeth, face numerous disadvantages within the formal school system. They are unable to access opportunities given to learners who attend schools outside of the township such as physical or creative activities. Therefore, many students are drawn to negative influences and end up roaming the streets and taverns and engaging in substance abuse. Subsequently, their development suffers as their capabilities and talents are not nurtured and cultivated. Out of 100 children that started Grade 1 in 2004 in Walmer Township, only 56 made it to Grade 12 on 2014. Out of those, 13 passed their final exams, with only two doing well enough to be allowed to go to university.

Statistical research suggests that 85% of a person’s knowledge was received through an informal learning setting – knowledge and skills which human beings receive outside a formal educational institution. A child gains this type of education from the community, peers, family and society. Therefore, the likelihood of a learner (who lives within a society with poor education levels) to receive high-quality informal education is extremely low. Lack of parents, guidance, structure, care, support and positive role models leads towards a low level of informal education and comparatively underdeveloped and often emotionally unstable children. 

The idea

Masifunde initiates educational programs for youth in Walmer Township. Masifunde educates learners in primary and high school to become changemakers (multipliers, active role models), who are enabled to take over responsibility in their community and who systematically share their learnings and know-how with their peers.

The work is driven by the vision of a united society in which everyone is empowered through high quality education to participate pro-actively and confidently in societal issues by increasing their resilience, self-confidence and intrinsic motivation and thereby initiating positive change in their own lives and the lives of others. A total of more than 450 learners are currently benefitting from Masifunde Learner Development’s interventions, which are based in Walmer Township, Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

Masifunde’s development approach focusses on high quality education in a holistic manner. Participants join our programmes at an early age (Grade 3) and ideally stay with us until they finish school. Throughout, they are trained in all three fields of education:

§  academic assistance (homework support, tutoring, computer literacy),

§  extra-curricular education (in the fields of arts, media and sports), and

§  informal education (life skills, personality growth, social assistance).

The programmes are designed in such a way that the learners, in the beginning years, explore their environment, their interests and talents and learn about themselves as individuals and as members of a society. The activities and the experience of success within Masifunde strengthen the learners’ self-confidence, give them goals and a vision for life and motivate them to strive towards achieving their objectives.

Our contribution and relationship

Christiane Bergner is a Consultant in the Berlin office and Deputy Chairwoman of Masifunde in Germany. She regularly spends time on-site in South Africa. Since June 2016, McKinsey for Children finances a social worker. Case work forms an important pillar within the holistic education approach Masifunde is using in order to tackle social challenges. Besides one-on-one counselling and family dialogue sessions, more practical advice in the field of learning techniques and stress relieve are offered. Every learner in our programmes may make use of this services.