Vulindlela: Making way for children of Rhodes University Staff

Vulindlela works with both parents and their children for holistic family capacity-building
Vulindlela works with both parents and their children for holistic family capacity-building

Learning begins at home, and parents are their children’s first teachers. This is the ethos behind the Vul’Indlela programme run by Rhodes University Community Engagement (RUCE). While RUCE is involved in several projects aimed at improving the quality of and access to education across in Makhanda, Vul’Indlela focuses on the Rhodes University family. The programme works with RU staff who are parents to high school learners in local no-fee paying schools. The aim is to nurture various skills that parents can use to support their children. The programme also works with the learners themselves, providing mentorship and educational support.

Vulindlela was designed to facilitate a pathway for the children of Rhodes University staff to access the institution. The children of Rhodes University permanent staff are eligible for a rebate on their fees when they start their tertiary education journey. However, the under-resourced schooling system in Makhanda limits these children’s potential to make use of this rebate. Vul’Indlela was created to bridge this gap.

Vulindlela is an innovative collaboration that involves RUCE, the leadership of five Makhanda Schools, Rhodes University Business School and School of Journalism and Media third-year Writing and Editing students.

The programme is also one of the Vice-Chancellor’s Initiative for Education’s Parent Engagement Programme. Vul’Indlela addresses the top secondary half of the schooling system, while its sibling programme, Intsomi Reading addresses the Foundation Phase.

Research has shown that the way parents manage their homes has a significant impact on their children's educational development. To support parents in supporting their children, Vulindlela involves a number of activities throughout the year, including: computer literacy; career guidance; effective communication and conflict resolution skills; and financial literacy. By empowering parents, the program aims to create a supportive atmosphere where education can flourish.

Vulindlela also involves individual attention which can often be limited in public schools. Parents submit their children's results for analysis, allowing for individualised assessments of academic performance. Feedback is provided to parents, highlighting their children's progress, strengths, weaknesses, and prospects.

Grade 10 to 12 learners in the programme benefit from Saturday classes and tutoring sessions, where dedicated volunteers and staff members provide guidance in key subjects such as accounting, maths, physical science, geography, and life sciences.

Since 2020, the programme has run an annual SD-Card Campaign. The campaign involves crowd-funding to purchase enough SD-cards for every Matric learner in no-fee paying schools. Students compile a collection of relevant, updated learning materials and exam papers and memos for all the subjects taught in these schools. The students also load the materials onto the cards and distribute them to the learners at the schools.

The impact of the Vulindlela Program is already evident in the lives of its beneficiaries. Parents have learned how to manage their homes effectively to promote educational success, and students have shown remarkable improvement in their academic performance.

This year, the Vulindlela program has a total number of 39 parents and 46 learners. The learners in the program are in Grade 10 to 12, and they attend various schools in Makhanda. These schools are Ntsika Secondary School, Mary Waters High School, Nombulelo Secondary School,  PJ Olivier High School, Nathaniel Nyaluza High School and Victoria Girls’ High School.

Vulindlela has also recruited 27 Rhodes University student volunteers who tutor various subjects and grades in the program. There are also two student leaders who work with the coordinator of the program. One of the student leaders assists with managing the tutoring sessions, and the other focuses on mentoring and assignment assistance in the computer lab during the sessions.

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