Earlier this year we reported on Masicorp’s English Lab project. Led by an American volunteer Jan O’Connor, the project improves the English skills of the teachers at Ukhanyo Primary School who will go on to teach English to pupils as they move away from learning in isiXhosa. During her time working on the project in Masiphumelele library it seems that Jan was also noticed by three primary school pupils.
Phamela Ndyalvane, Esethu Mahlumba and Alive Somaguda (left to right on the photograph) all noticed Jan was an English speaker and asked her for guidance on suitable books that they could read to improve their own English skills. The end result was an ‘informal’ book club where Jan introduced the girls to the delights of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlotte’s Web and the Secret Garden. The books were a hit and all three of the girls rapidly advanced their English language skills.
A little later in the academic year the girls approached Jan with details of a scholarship they had been made aware of via a flyer in the library. The scheme run by the Alan Orbis Gray Foundation provided funding for prospective high school students from economically challenged areas of South Africa. With the assistance of Jan the girls applied and sat for the scheme’s initial examination, together with 1,500 other students from across the country.
Phamela and 200 other applicants passed the examination and were invited to a formal interview where the field was whittled down to a final 50 pupils. All were required to attend a weekend long leadership camp at a Cape Town hotel. For Phamela this was her very first visit to a hotel and her first ever restaurant meal. Despite the daunting circumstances she was finally advised that she was to be accepted for a scholarship. She is now the recipient of a fully funded five year scholarship to St. Cyprian’s School – one of the oldest and most prestigious private schools in Cape Town. Situated on the slopes of Table Mountain the school is a completely different world for Phamela from her surroundings in Masiphumelele.
Phamela was thrilled – and so of course was Jan. Her informal book club had come a long way. However, there is a sad side to the story as well. Disappointed that her two friends had not received the scholarship and would not be able to join her, Phamela initially did not tell anyone of her success.
Fortunately that is not the end of the girl’s story. Check back here in a few days’ time for a follow up on Esethu and Alive and their continuing high school education.