It began as a way to help people give matric another go in the humble cellar of a community centre. Now, it’s the hope of opportunity for many young people in rural KZN who have a place to turn for a future intertwined with technology.
Mseleni District, South Africa (13 November 2023) — What began as a way to give people second chances on their educational journeys in the humble cellar of a community hall has come a long way in the last decade. Initially a team that focused on supporting matric rewrites, the Christoph Meyer Foundation now provides the opportunity for thousands of students in rural KZN’s Mseleni District, to learn the skills they need to benefit from a future intertwined with technology.
Good Things Guy recently caught up with Dorothy Mlambo who manages the Christoph Meyer Maths & Science Centre, to learn more about the Foundation’s journey, milestones and rocketing mission to close the gaps in education that South Africa’s underserved communities bear the brunt of.
Looking back on its first mission that began in 2012—providing second chances through matric rewrite upgrade programmes—Dorothy shares that this was the beginning of many happy beginnings.
“Young adults who previously failed matric, successfully got good passes from our upgrading programme year by year, qualifying to study as doctors, nurses and teachers.”
But, as tech advancements continued to develop rapidly in the past decade, the opportunity to uplift more people not just to pass well, but to be prepared for this new world, was evident. The dream grew from the community hall to three classrooms, which now house their Robotics and STEM programmes kitted out with interactive ‘blackboards’ and even VR headsets.
On this progression and the conversation around access to STEM resources, Dorothy shares that while these resources can’t be taken for granted, they are all-important.
“From an education point of view, we need to enable and expose learners to 21st century opportunities by closing the gap,” says Dorothy.
“South Africans are geniuses when it comes to developing new education programmes, take Unplugged Coding for example—developed at Nelson Mandela University—it allows learners without access to high tech to learn foundational coding. Maths and Science are important, they bring more knowledge, and are lacking in many schools.
“STEM from my humble point of view, is the basis of education…when children are not exposed from an early age, or any age for that matter, to problem solving and communication skills learnt by working in a team, I believe it hinders their future severely.”
She adds that the centre is also able to support the community through the training of unemployed youth (of which there are currently just under 30) as robotic assistants taking unplugged coding to rural schools that have little tech access.
“This is important for me as it not only offers basic coding opportunities, it also exposes learners to soft skills such as problem solving, teamwork and communication.”
Beyond this, there is also the Hands-on-Science programme that offers learners the opportunity to attend a half-day workshop. 1500 learners attend from outlying schools every month.
On the horizon of opportunity, lies the CMSC pilot project which will not just focus on learners or the local community, but the entire district, as well as a school for Grade 1s where STEM is taught right off the bat.
“[The CMSC pilot project] will enable learners from a 50km radius to attend streamed interactive classes where they are exposed to international curriculum and are assisted by teachers on the ground.”
This would turn the current community hall into a tech hub and the first of its kind at the district level. This mission hopes to assist 32,000 learners and the tech-curious to up-skill themselves.
But, despite all the incredible happenings both past and present, one highlight stands out for Dorothy and it is one she hopes remains ever-expanding:
“I believe we have achieved a lot with very few resources, however my personal highlight is seeing a learner achieve and grow in confidence, that is my biggest reward.”