Learners of Vukani and Lehlabile secondary schools planted trees and created food gardens on their school grounds on Tuesday.
This was done in celebration of the Lights On After School movement, an annual campaign that celebrates the after school NGO sector.
The movement puts the spotlight on the critical role the after school sector plays in helping the most vulnerable learners reach their full potential.
Lethabo Mokhonoana, programme director for The Mamelodi Initiative, said they offered resources to get learners from underprivileged and poorer communities interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), as well as in the environment and climate change.
According to the World Economic Forum, fewer than 2% of African students under 18 complete their schooling with vital STEM skills.
Mokhonoana said since science, tech and innovation are expanding into every aspect of our lives today, STEM is an important job creator.
“Many of the learners in our community have lost hope and we aim to introduce these learners to STEM subjects in a fun and interesting way. We want to help young people from poorer backgrounds to adapt to the new world of work and 4IR,” said Mokhonoana.
The movement calls to end a failing education system.
As South African schools enter the final exam phase for the year, all eyes are on the education sector, and the academic performance of students. While the official matric pass rate for 2022 was recorded as 80.1%, many educational experts highlighted the high student drop-out rate, which realistically puts the pass rate at under 55%.
Sibongile Khumalo, executive director of The Learning Trust (TLT), said: “There are too many learners either not making it to matric or failing to pass their final year. Research shows that it takes a South African child an average of 15 years to complete matric.”
Fortunately, there are interventions such as after-school programmes that help combat school drop-out, repetition of grades, and ultimately, unemployment.
After school programmes help bridge the academic and psycho-social gaps where government support falls short.
This year’s theme for the Lights On After School movement is “Rallying behind after school programmes”.
“There’s never been a better time to rally behind after school programmes than now. We are experiencing really tough times in South Africa such as a drastic teacher shortage, and the government has announced more cost-cutting measures due to our economic situation.
“Not to mention, there’s a hiring freeze, which is expected to affect schools,” said Khumalo.
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