Inspiring Purpose in South Africa

The current version of our work – ‘Global Citizens in the Making’ – was created to use the unique opportunity of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games to inspire a generation of young people and our ambition was to share the programme with our Commonwealth peers.

This was most effective when we worked with an ‘In Country’ partner and in South Africa this was the Jabulani Project. The Jabulani Project’s mission is to empower individuals and communities through financial support, training and volunteer work. They enable disadvantaged individuals to access education, employment and basic necessities such as safe housing.

The project began in 2001 when Alex Wallace, then principal of James Gillespie’s High School in Edinburgh, founded a partnership between Gillespie’s and Zwelibanzi High School in Umlazi, Durban’s biggest township. Over the following decade the partnership flourished and grew into a student exchange programme and a network for schools and organisations in Umlazi and Durban.

Since 2014 we have been working closely with Tommy Pia from the Jabulani Project, he is a volunteer from Edinburgh and achieved some great success using our programme in South Africa. It has always been fascinating to hear about Tommy’s experiences in the classroom, read on to find out more!

Some reflections from Tommy regarding the township learning experience:

  • Subjects are divided into Sciences and Arts; pupils who are regarded as being more ‘academic’ focus on science subjects because they believe these lead to more prestigious professions such as medicine and engineering. Pupils who are deemed to be less academic are steered towards the ‘Arts’ and as a result these subjects aren’t as respected
  • There is very little Career Guidance provision in these schools as resources are stretched and passing exams is prioritised over everything else
  • Class sizes range from 20-60; there are no white boards / projectors and to access film clips etc., all of the students have to crowd around a lap top

I asked Tommy the following questions:

“Why was Inspiring Purpose a good project to deliver as a volunteer in a country like South Africa?” 
Tommy: “Since the end of apartheid in 1994, academic achievement in township schools has slowly been on the rise; however this has not impacted the high rate of unemployment amongst young people from these regions, as much as one might expect. There are a number of complex reasons for this, but in my opinion, it is at least in part, down to the lack of resources and support for young people trying to plan their future and find a career they could succeed in. By bringing Inspiring Purpose to several classes in their penultimate year of high school, I was able to learn a lot about these students hopes and dreams, and they in turn were given an opportunity to evaluate their values and talents, and investigate the kind of impact they would like to make on the world, drawing reference from inspirational figures they admired and creating a unique poster in the process.”

“Why do pupils need this type of intervention, how did they respond to it and what changes do you think it helped to make in them?”
Tommy: “Overall there was a terrific response from both participating schools and many memorable lessons. I think one of my particular favourites was a class debate we initiated, referring to Malala’s struggle and Emma Watson’s inspiring UN speech, on the topic of feminism. In South Africa, polygamy is legal and it is often still the case that a man must pay “Lobola” for his wife, before he is able to marry her. However both these practices are on the wane and this was reflected in the debates, with students unanimously agreeing that we should not discriminate based on gender and using the “iwill” hashtag in their posters to record their intentions to promote equality within their communities.”

So, as a throwback to ‘Legacy2014’ here’s a gallery of posters to give you some insight into the beliefs, values and goals of our South African peers!


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