Failing your matric exam or leaving school before completing your matric can leave you frustrated. A journey is made of many challenges but also of people who can support us through the bumps along the way. “I failed matric when I was in school and I know that all it takes is one person that believes in you”, tells us Sandiswa Gwele, founder of Ukhanyo Foundation.
Started in 2019, the Foundation provides academic tutoring and personal development support to students based in the Cape Town area, who wish to re-write their matric exam; this can be done through the Second Chance Programme, an initiative by the Department of Basic Education (DBE). This Programme offers learners who have failed matric or dropped out before Grade 12 the opportunity to take their examination. Even though this is a useful initiative, there isn’t a lot of information available on how to register and how to prepare for it, and therefore many learners don’t take advantage of it.
Passionate about youth development, Sandiswa noticed that young people without a matric certificate are more likely to face unemployment. Without opportunities to improve their lives, they are stuck in a the cycle of poverty of their families. To potential employers, educational qualifications are proven tools to assess skills and abilities; not having them puts young people at a disadvantage to access opportunities for further studies or employment.
The education journey is full of hurdles for young South Africans because of academic and socio-economic challenges. Research shows that only 50% of learners that start Grade 1 complete Grade 12 in minimum time, with the rest being pushed out of the system .
Sandisiwa notices that the reasons for failing matric go beyond academic challenges; learners often deal with traumatic experiences in their lives or a lack of resources. “These factors need to be acknowledged as they influence how young people learn in class and limit their abilities to be their best”.
According to the Youth Capital’s Action Plan, the familial and socio-economic pressures we face are just as important in shaping the success of young people in school as much as their academic performance and the quality of teaching. This means that young people need support beyond the classroom, with resources to learn, a nurturing learning environment as well as psychosocial and community support. Sandisiwa’s experience at Ukhanyo echoes our plan, when she considers that “Learners fail matric after spending a year in class with textbooks. In my experience, even those who have the courage to register to re-write, fail again because of a lack of family and community support, as well as a lack of resources such as textbooks and tutoring assistance. These individuals really lose hope, self-esteem and they start believing that they are not good enough and they will never be successful in life”.
Personal development plays a big role in the programme ran by the Foundation. When Sandisiwa started in January 2019 , she asked the 10 learners what they needed to tackle the challenge ahead. “They all shared that they couldn’t shake a feeling of failure. So, I asked Next Step Coaching to put together a self-development programme, Naspers Lab provided digital training while Ikhasi Tutors made available tutors for maths, physics and life orientation. We were set to go!”.
Nelson, one of the participants in the 2019 programme, shared his challenges during Grade 12. “During my matric year, I faced many challenges at home. My mom had lost her job in 2016, and at a point I felt like a burden asking her for transport money because I knew the money could’ve been used for something else. I used school to escape from problems at home and when I was home it was really hard to focus on school. It was inevitable that I wouldn’t make it.”
From 10 learners in 2019, Ukhanyo Foundation has 24 learners in 2020. Sandisiwa confirms that they are really young individuals who are willing and hungry to change their lives. However, COVID-19 and the lockdown have impacted the learners as the programme had to move to remote learning. This added the burden of data costs, access to the internet and study material, unfavorable work environment, unemployment and loss of income in their family, uncertainy about the future. A recent research with 13 282 young South Africans (age 18- 35) that reported on resources during the lockdown confirmed that only 17% of respondents had access to data and 11% to internet connection, a laptop and a study area.
Nelson told us how different the matric exam felt the second time as “Ukhanyo Foundation helped me prepare not only the June examination- their self-development classes prepared me for life”. Nelson is currently studying towards his Diploma in Marketing Management at Northlink College and still attends the leadership sessions made available by the foundation.
Nelson’s success story shows what is possible when learners are supported in their education journey not only with academic knowledge but with psychosocial and self-development tools.
Find out more about Ukhanyo Foundation and how you could get involved! If you are older than 21 and able to finish Grade 9 before leaving high school, the Zero Dropout Campaign has mapped out the steps to follow to write the Second Chance Programme.
Are you running a project to assist learners with writing their matric exams? Get in touch!
 van Broekhuizen, H., van der Berg, S. & Hofmeyr, H. Higher Education Access and Outcomes for the 2008 National Matric Cohort. Stellenbosch Economic Working Papers 16/16 (2017). doi:10.2139/ssrn.2973723