TUF helps pupils improve school marks

Chloe Engelbrecht sits among the 30 other pupils as they do their homework at the The Umtshayelo Foundation.

Aspiring fashion designers, artists and beauticians, among others, meet after school each day at the The Umtshayelo Foundation (TUF) centre in the Brackenfell industrial area. Their goal: to improve their high school marks in Tuf’s Learning4Life (L4L) afterschool programme.

Chloe Engelbrecht is a 16-year-old Grade 10 pupil at Bernadino Heights High School in Scottsdene. She joined L4L last year.

“I used to be very poor in my school work,” said the aspiring fashion designer, but since her mother enrolled her at L4L, Chloe has improved from a D to a C aggregate.

“I used to do nothing at home, just watch TV, but now that I’m here, I actually focus on my school work,” she said.

A quiet place to focus is what prompted Queshar Benwell, 16, of Monument Park High School, to come to L4L.

“I didn’t have a quiet place to study,” the Grade 11 pupil said. “And I needed help with my maths and business. There’s lots of smaller children where I stay and it’s not quiet,” Queshar said of her Bernadino Heights home.

Queshar hopes to work in the family business once she had completed her studies.

“My mother does nails,” Queshar said. Her brother is a barber and the family are busy opening a business from home. Queshar hopes to add her beautician ambitions to the mix.

Aspiring fine-art lecturer Bevan Blankenberg, of Vredekloof, was also looking for a quiet place to study. Bevan, a 17-year-old matric pupil at Meridian Pinehurst, in Uitzicht, said he couldn’t get the help with his homework that he needed at home.

“Jaehnn could help me with something that I couldn’t understand and vice versa, but at home no one really knows what you are doing,” said Bevan.

He is referring to 16-year-old Bernadino Heights pupil Jaehnn Jones, his friend and maths tutor. Jaehnn is repeating Grade 10 because he failed English by 1 percent last year.

“My friend’s sister told my sister who told me about L4L,” Jaehnn said. “My sister wanted to help me because I failed Grade 10. I’m struggling with my English, and if you fail English, you fail.”

Since joining L4L at the beginning of the year, his English mark has already improved by 15 percent and he has been able to help Bevan to understand his maths better.

This peer-assisted learning is exactly what makes L4L a successful after-school programme, said co-ordinator Lorraine Wagner.

“Learners learn better from other learners,” Ms Wagner said.

“This is not like school. It’s a diversion from school, but they are still doing their school work.”

Other than school work, L4L also provides the youth with a meal and recreational activities. They also regularly take part in social responsibility activities in the community, which they then journal about.

The programme also provides incentives such as, “journal of the week” and “most improved learner”, and at the end of the year, the most hard-earned of these awards are given at a glitzy gala ceremony, reminiscent of the Oscars.

All this is done to inspire the pupils to dream big, Ms Wagner said.

“For me, what’s so wonderful is that there is no limit to what they can dream. Young people must dream of their futures and L4L is not going to do it for them. It’s about making a vision for their lives. Schools give academic knowledge but let’s fill our youth with hope.”

L4L was started in 2014. It is the educational arm of Tuf, a volunteer-based, social responsibility NGO, which was started by Andrew Lamour, of Kuils River, in 2013. Mr Lamour said a second branch of L4L would be launched soon in Struisbaai.

“Someone saw what we were doing on Facebook and asked me to help. So I went to help them there to get it started,” he said.

Tuf is supported by sponsors and the pupils’ parents who give monthly donations of an amount of their choice. Mr Lamour hopes that retired teachers will volunteer their time as tutors at L4L.