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SUPPORTING EDUCATION IN MASIPHUMELELE – REAL CHANGE IS A TEAM EFFORT

It all began with a visit to the Masiphumelele township in Cape Town, in 1999, when John and Carol Thompson from the US, were holidaying in South Africa, and ventured inside what was previously known as ‘’Site 5’’. Like most townships in South Africa, Masi (short for Masiphumelele) was established during a time of apartheid segregation, when black people were moved to settlements away from white areas. This re-settlement had devastating effects on the people who were uprooted.

Masiphumelele, a township in Cape Town, is home to over 40 000 people

The Thompson’s visit sparked an urgent desire for them to get involved and help the residents who were living in this community. They started with several small volunteer-driven building projects, and later went on to establish the non-profit organisation ‘’Masicorp’’. Almost 23 years later, Masicorp’s projects are reaching nearly 4 000 members of the community through a wide range of education and skills development programmes.

Today Masi is home to over 40 000 people living in a space of only 2km2. High levels of unemployment, overcrowding, crime, informal housing, and lack of access to water, electricity and sanitation – are just some of the challenges that residents here face – all impact on a poverty-stricken community struggling to survive and support their families.

Meet Milli Firth – Managing Director of Masicorp
‘’My work at as a remedial teacher specialising in language difficulties led me to volunteer at Masiphumelele Library in 2004’’, explains Milli. ‘’This became my learning ground for community work. Together with the Head Librarian, Sue Alexander, we established a number of learning-outreach programmes at the Masi Library.’’

Inspired by Masicorp’s passionate leadership and long-term commitment to the community, Milli joined the Masicorp team as a volunteer in 2009. Over the next few years, she was involved in a wide variety of Masicorp’s educational programmes, becoming Deputy Managing Director in 2014, then later appointed as Managing Director in 2017.

Masicorp operates Maths and English Learning Labs at Ukhanyo Primary School. A school of nearly 2000 learners

Education changes lives
All Masicorp’s programmes focus on providing opportunities through education and skills development, for children and adults – as a means towards a sustainable future and a route out of poverty. From early childhood education initiatives, primary & high school numeracy & literacy, to adult skills development – each programme aims to uplift and support – working with and run by the people of Masi themselves. In fact, most of Masicorp’s staff live in the Masi community.

Masicorp's pre-school programmes also provide two cooked nutritional meals per day for the children

Planting seeds for future learning
Masicorp has committed to providing high quality early-childhood education and care to prepare young children under six years of age for successful school careers.

During Milli’s time with Masicorp, she has seen this programme grow to reach six hundred preschool age children each year. In fact, one-third of Masicorp’s annual budget is spent on early childhood development initiatives, including the training of ECD teachers living in Masi.

“Neuroscience tells us that pre-school education changes the lives of individuals, families and communities and has a long-lasting impact into further schooling. Masicorp places a huge amount of our resources in this area. In 2021 we were able to open our third new pre-school and significantly expand our support to the informal crèches in Masi”, says Milli.

Over 70% of the graduates of the Masicorp free computer training courses are women

COVID’s blight on learning
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, learning in SA is close to one school year behind. Rotational attendance has resulted in school children losing valuable learning time. In under-resourced schools in communities like Masi, the gaps are even wider. In 2022 Masicorp’s Primary and High School numeracy and literacy programmes are working hard to regain lost ground.

One of the Masicorp programmes Milli is particularly passionate about is literacy support for Masi children attending schools outside of the community. These children attend weekly sessions with ‘’Teacher Milli’’, who helps them improve their reading and literacy skills. This kind of support is vital for children to succeed in all their subjects, not just English. “The most rewarding part of what I do, is when the children proudly share their report card with me and seeing how they have improved in all their subjects’’, says Milli.

Unemployed men and women living in Masiphumelele are learning valuable sewing skills

Skills for a brighter future
Through partnerships with various other community organisations Masicorp also helps to fill the gap in skills transfer, life skills and gender equality in Masiphumelele. Training in computers, sewing and art is offered to teen and adult community members free of charge. Masicorp believes that learning how to learn and taking on new skills are essential tools to help people work towards being able to support their families.

” Masicorp is a light in Masiphumelele that has been shining for 23 years’’, says Milli, ‘’By continuing to provide support, encouragement and opportunities, we look forward to seeing a brighter future for people living in this resilient community.’’

For more information about Masicorp programmes, and how to get involved visit our website or give us a call.

MASICORP

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