A helping hand for South Africa’s aspiring engineers

Our Saturday Schools are inspiring and guiding the next generation towards much-needed engineering and technical careers.

“If we want to see a better future, we must involve ourselves in the building of the next generation. We must be willing to facilitate, align and direct a learner to his or her destination.”

These are the words of Samuel Baloyi, a civil technician from our Mangaung office in South Africa. Samuel is directly involved with developing young people’s skills and knowledge. He is a tutor at one of our Saturday Schools.

“Saturday School is more than just giving back: it’s raising society to new standards. It brings me great joy to be a part of this change in communities,” he adds.

Reversing the skills deficit
Across the world there is a shortage of engineering graduates. In South Africa, where development rests on an ability to build much-needed infrastructure, lack of skills threatens to constrain the country’s future economic sustainability.

We set up our Saturday Schools initiative in 2007 in order to play an active role in reversing this skills deficit. Our aim is to improve the marks of scholars in mathematics, science and engineering to help under-privileged students gain university places in technical subjects. All the teachers are volunteers from among our own engineers, technicians and academic staff and give up their time on Saturday mornings to take classes.
From a single class in 2007, we now tutor nearly 200 students each year at six centres around the country. We can measure results in numbers – for example, 54 of our students gained university places for last year’s intake – but just as inspiring are the individual tales of what Saturday Schools mean to our students and tutors. Read on to really appreciate what a difference our innovative initiative is making.

Our students’ stories

Kabelo Mkasi attended our Saturday School in Tshwane during 2008, walking away with the Best Student in mathematics, electrical technology and science awards. She went on to successfully obtain her National Diploma in Electrical Engineering from the Tshwane University of Technology. She firmly believes that without Saturday School she would not have achieved her excellent results. “Saturday School eased me through Grade 12 and equipped me for exams,” she said.

Jerry Hlongwane: After attending Saturday School at Soshanguve Technical Centre and achieving a distinction in mathematics, Jerry Hlongwane was accepted at the University of the Witwatersrand as an engineering undergraduate. He is the first person in his family to go to university. “Saturday School provided assistance in everything that I found challenging in mathematics, physical science and engineering graphics and design. At regular school it was difficult to ask questions: at Saturday School the atmosphere was conducive to asking questions.” Inspired by the Saturday Schools’ initiative, he started a tutoring programme called Beat the Odds in 2009.

Khuselwa Tyeku: Aspiring electrical engineer Khuselwa is doing what it takes to get ahead in life. “Nelson Mandela said that education is the most powerful tool you can use to change the world. This inspires and drives me daily so that through hard work, dedication and being educated I will become successful - and I too might, one day, be able to change the world. My dream is to study engineering at the University of Stellenbosch.”

Ncumisa Bambi: Passionate about giving back and being involved in her community, Ncumisa would like a career in the medical field. She is a learner at our Saturday School in Cape Town and is determined to get good marks to pursue her dream. “Saturday School has given me hope to achieve my career goals. The tuition I get from the engineers has already made a big difference in my marks. This means everything to me as my results can make, or break, my dreams.”

Precious Nkadimeng: Precious has a talent for drawing so it’s no surprise that engineering graphics and design is her favourite subject. It is her dream to become an architect or engineer. “Saturday School is a lifeline! The tutors, who are engineers at Royal HaskoningDHV, really care about us and want to see us progress and obtain a good education. I am grateful that it’s free. When the going gets tough, I remind myself of the saying my grandmother taught me: Take every brick that people throw at you and build a house!”

Our tutors’ stories

Esther Stavropolous: “I enjoy teaching at Saturday School. I feel like I am making a difference in someone else’s life. It’s encouraging when you see the results. Last year there were students who started off with marks of around 30% and they improved their marks by 30%. There was one student whose marks improved by over 50%. It’s not only what we do, but also what the students do. It’s a team effort. We are supplementing their education.”

Walter van der Linde: “I feel part of a bigger picture. What I actually want to see take place is that the students who I’m giving classes to today will become my co-colleagues and work with me at Royal HaskoningDHV. It really feels like I am contributing to society.”

Godfrey Kasirori: “When we look at what is happening in the world right now, it is really dynamic. Everything is changing so fast and the kids need every assistance they can get from their parents and from the professional world. Through this initiative, we can assist the kids by equipping them with the skills to solve the problems of the world they will face.”

Jacob Modise: “We are helping the kids in the school to become better people. I try to show them the way forward, the right way. This initiative is also important to change the perceptions of the guys around this location. The kids we had in 2009 come back during the holidays and give back to the community by teaching these other ones, who benefit from being taught by people they can relate to, who can talk to them and who understand their difficulties. I think that this can grow because guys from here become strong leaders who others will follow.”