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They also help matriculants with varsity applications

Youngsters motivate vulnerable learners to stay in school

Ntsieni Sirwali, chairperson of Rotangana Foundation, which means 'come together' in Venda.
Ntsieni Sirwali, chairperson of Rotangana Foundation, which means 'come together' in Venda.

Four rural youth from Thulamela local municipality in Vhembe, Limpopo, have formed a non-profit foundation to help learners in the region stay at school.

Last year, Ntsieni Sirwali, Rotondwa Matshidze, Tshifhiwa Munyai and Otanganedzwa Phosa established Rotangana Foundation, which means come together in Venda.

Sirwali, the foundation’s chairperson, says Rotangana seeks to link underprivileged learners to the many opportunities outside their district.

“Our ward has high levels of poverty, which leads to many learners dropping out of school and ending up hopeless and involved in crime. With the country on lockdown since March 2020, the situation became more dire. Children who would normally be at school – receiving meals and an education – were going hungry and risked completely giving up on school. We had to do something.”

Since then, Sirwali and his team embarked on a food donation drive after identifying needy families. “We rely on donations from ourselves, other community members and local businesses. We offer academic support to learners through the distribution of school stationery such as books, uniforms and study materials, especially at primary and secondary schools.” 

What’s more, Rotangana helps matriculants fill in online applications for admission at institutions of higher learning. “Internet access is an issue in our rural areas. We try and help matriculants to apply online for admission, bursaries and scholarships,” he says.

A report released by the department of basic education and Statistics SA last year indicates that the survival rate per 1,000 students was around 520, meaning that the drop-out rate was closer to 48%. 

Furthermore, minister of basic education Angie Motshekga last year confirmed that more than 300,000 children dropped out of primary schools across SA over a six-month period, including during the national lockdown.

Data from the report also indicates that high school learners had the highest number of drop-outs. 

Grade 11 showed a 24.08% of drop-our rate, followed by grade 10 with 14.84%.

Sirwali, a university graduate himself, says it is important for youth to get a sound education.

“Education is the pillar of success in our communities. We want to make education fashionable to enable our youth to help improve the current state of livelihood in the area.”

• This article first appeared in GCIS's Vuk'uzenzele

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