After leaving Masiphumelele High School the students on Masicorp’s bursary programme start a whole new life. Their new learning experience involves being away from the family home and living independently on or near campus in Cape Town. As well as having to adjust to the pace of higher education and learn new materials they have to overcome the shock of living away from their families and community back in Masiphumelele. As the course gets harder and the pressure to fit into university life starts to build it helps if you have someone to turn to for friendship and guidance. This is the vital role played by Masicorp’s bursary student mentors.
Before leaving Masiphumelele each student is given a mentor from among our pool of volunteers who will stay in regular contact throughout the academic year. Mentors will meet their students before the course begins and take them to their residence in the city. Students and mentors stay in regular contact through regular telephone calls or even Facebook/WhatsApp if the student prefers. Once the student has settled into their new life mentors often meet up with their students on campus for coffee and a snack. Sometimes it is useful to take the student on a brief outing but the most important thing for a mentor is to be there when needed.
Mentors do not need to be experts in any academic subject – that is what the university tutors are there for. If a mentor has a particular specialism or professional skill then we will make every effort to match them to an appropriate student but this is not strictly necessary. The mentor’s main role is to befriend and watch over their student and to earn their trust. If we can identify problems in a particular area of the course or in a student’s personal circumstances at an early stage there is a much greater chance that Masicorp can provide additional tutoring or specialist counseling before the problems become too big to manage.
Last week programme manager Susan de Vaux invited several of the current mentors to meet and share their experiences. It was a useful session for new mentors with students just starting out in higher education to meet experienced mentors who have completed a full course with their students. Seen here are just some of the mentors involved (front row left to right: Clare Wilson, Jill Stirrup [Vice President], Pat Brennen, Trish Fergusonn and back row left to right: Susan de Vaux [Programme manager], Phoebe Cottrell, Milli Firth [Masicorp Deputy CEO]).
The mentor scheme is best summed up by experienced Masicorp Vice President, Jill Stirrup, who told us, “I have been mentoring for quite a few years and have enjoyed it immensely – watching young people develop from shell shocked school leavers to grown up successful and independent young people is a very worthwhile experience”.
Are you interested in becoming a bursary student mentor? Please feel free to contact programme manager Susan de Vaux who would be delighted to give you more details and discuss the requirements with you: (E-mail) firstname.lastname@example.org (Tel) 082 653 3904.