Masicorp - Masiphumelele South Africa

MasiMail - March 2008

The Masi Mail - A Newsletter for the Friends of Masiphumelele

March 2008


The Transformation of MASICORP

In South Africa they talk about “transformation” – the hand over of power by white to black people. MASICORP’s transformation is about the move from a US led, managed and funded organization to a South African based organization with self-managed programs and support from the U.S. The discussion has begun and the final form will be complete by April 2009.

Inside Masiphumelele Library


The library continues expanding its programs with great success. There are now programs for pre-primary literacy, primary and secondary school children and parents. Meetings have been held with the Education Department and the two schools in Masiphumelele aimed at ensuring close collaboration between teachers in the school and volunteers who come to the library in the afternoon to tutor the students.

This collaboration is widely accepted and is supported by the Education Department, but is very poorly executed by some, especially the High School which has had difficult leadership problems.

In a meeting in January at which all the stakeholders were represented, it was agreed that the library is a forum for learning in the community in which both schools, the Education Department, the City Library System, the Fish Hoek library and MASICORP all have an important role to play.

A computer class upstairs in Masiphumelele LibraryUpstairs, is a computer training lab where volunteer teachers run scheduled classes to anyone who wants to join the course. We have changed the curriculum from skills-based (e.g. Word, Excel) to outcome-based (e.g. write a resume and insert your picture in it). Attendance has risen and we feel now we have a curriculum that will attract students and keep them coming.

The computer program has been turned over to volunteer Andrew Smith, a Brit who lives in France and South Africa, 6 months a year in each. A teacher’s computer linked to a projector facilitates the instruction, new equipment has been added and a service agreement signed to make sure all the computers are always running.


A fast broadband connection ($100 a month in South Africa!) makes the Internet available to the students. The fast Internet connection raises questions of access. This is not an Internet café, it is a training room.

Yet there are people in Masi who have the skills and need to have Internet access. A few months ago some unsupervised activity resulted in excessive downloading and the line was shut down because Telkom limits the amount of downloading on ADSL accounts. So another job has been created for a local woman; Ndeleka will be paid as the “upstairs room manager” to control access and to supervise activity.

The library has become so popular it is often overcrowded in the afternoons. Teachers at the primary school have been asked to take turns sending their classes over and two high school monitors have been hired (more job creation) to keep the noise down.

Johann Kim from New York helps a studentThe High School liaison is still problematical; agreements are broken, students do not attend at scheduled times and volunteers’ time is wasted. We have hired a teacher-in-training who graduated from the High School two years ago and knows many of the senior students. His task is not only to tutor them, but also to get them there in the afternoons.

These additions to the library programs increase the needed MASICORP funding from $500 a month to $1,500 a month. This will be provided from an endowment which yields about 10% currently and which also exhausts the capital in ten years. This provides funding for the ten years until the retirement of Sue Alexander, the leader of the library, and gives ten years to find an alternate source of funds. Meanwhile the library serves as a model for other townships in South Africa and as far away as Botswana.


WordWorks studentsWordWorks


One of the more exciting programs is the WordWorks program; every Tuesday afternoon children in Grades 1-3 come in enthusiastically to work with volunteers who have been trained to work with them in pairs. They develop early literacy skills and early results show a marked improvement in their comprehension and school performance.


Sports program


Elize and NcebaNext year (2009) the library will be bursting with people and new ideas for literacy programs for the young of Masiphumelele. We need more quiet space for readers and homework. We will be able to expand into the next-door lot, currently leased to Habitat who have withdrawn from Masi. The second extension to the library will cost over $100,000 and right now there is no plan for funding this.

We created the sports program at the Ukhanyo School eight years ago and expanded it four years ago with a community program catering to older students. This community program has produced successful teams – especially the girls’ soccer team who play in a soccer league. We have been spending $20,000 a year on two sports coaches, sports kit and transport for the away matches of the community teams.

To make this self sustaining we have given six months’ notice to the assistant sports coach (who wants to join the army) and have given notice to the school that if they want to continue with an after-school sports program and a coach who takes all the PE classes for the teachers in the mornings, they must pay his salary.

Our sports program has never been about producing stars. It is a healthy after-school activity for students who have nothing else to do in the afternoons. It is also a way of introducing concepts like “goal”, “score”, “rules”, “teamwork” and other principles of value in life.

We have also budgeted for the continuation of the community program and have written a proposal for funding to the local municipal councilor for some public money to keep this program running. The community sports program becomes a non-profit South African organization with its own CEO (Nceba) and its own Board (including MASICORP’s Elize Taylor as Treasurer). We are optimistic that with community funding for the community program, the school paying for Nceba, its sports coach, and Patrick off to the army, the school and community sports programs will achieve our objective of being self-sustaining by 2009.


Sports field


The Ukhanyo School has a sports field in terrible condition; it is an uneven sandpit filled with rubble and broken glass. Similarly, the school has litter blown about by the wind; nobody seems to notice, nobody picks up litter, there seems to be no pride in the school. Two years ago we issued a challenge to the Ukhanyo School “Pick up the litter, make this school clean and we will do something about your sports field.

Ukhanyo School Sports fieldThey made an effort. For example instead of allowing the ladies who sell snacks to the kids into the school at break time, they keep them outside the school gates. (The kids buy the snacks through the gate and throw the package away inside anyway.) So last year we spent $1200 having the field re-graded. When we returned this year we found that the south-easter had blown the top layer of sand into the downwind shacks and revealed more rubble. Evidently when the school was built, the rubble was leveled and lightly covered to make the sports field.

A grass field would cost about $90,000 and would be destroyed in months; there are 1300 students at the Ukhanyo School and about the same number at the High School and no other sports field in Masi. Regular watering and maintenance cannot be relied upon. A laterite pitch would be almost maintenance-free; it would cost about $30,000 but you cannot play league matches on it and people get hurt when they fall. We are supporting the community’s efforts to obtain a municipal field to ease the pressure on the Ukhanyo field and all parties agree that no grass field can be built until control of access and maintenance issues are resolved.

This issue is linked to the transformation of the sports program since, if the Ukhanyo school decides not to hire Nceba there is little need for a good field.


Busi  has started at Montrose College.Scholars


We awarded bursaries in January to two Masi students to attend False Bay College studying business and financial management. We have two who graduated from college in December – one has returned for further qualification and the other is seeking a job. Two more are in college at Cape Peninsula University of Technology. Of the two who graduated from High School one has gone on to college on a MASICORP bursary and the other has a job as a waiter. Our high school bursary students are in grades 11 and 12 this year.


Busi (left) has started at Montrose College.



Olwethu is doing well in his third year at CPUTThere are many stories about the journey these young people are making from shack to classroom, from third world to first world, from Xhosa culture to Western culture. Each failure is disappointing, each success a triumph. The incredible support and mentoring of all our current MASICORP bursary students provided by our local volunteers must end in 2012 when the last scholar finishes college.

Yet there are still many young people who are looking for the money they need for an education; we are not yet sure whether or how this program will continue its funding.


Olwethu (right) is doing well in his third year at CPUT.


AyandaNew Scholars. Prosperity


Congratulations to Ayanda ( left) and Prosperity, (right) our new scholars this year. Each has received a bursary from MASICORP to attend False Bay College where they are studying Financial and Business Management.





Buildings - a sad story


We are sad to acknowledge that after a long battle to provide owner-occupied multi-unit housing (like the one we built for Noluthando 18 months ago), we must give up on this program to ease the housing shortage.

South African construction is controlled by the NHBRC (National Home Building Registration Council); both buildings and builders must be “registered “as NHBRC-approved housing in order for banks to lend money for the construction.

Having agreed with three major banks to a partnership in which we would build 12 multi-unit homes with them giving mortgages to the owners, we were informed that we had to follow NHBRC specifications. These specs included cavity walls and other features suitable for upmarket suburbs, but not for affordable housing. We have been unable to find any leverage to obtain a suitable spec so that we can follow the law and the banks can lend.

Meanwhile construction costs have doubled and the interest rate for mortgages has gone from 9.5% to 14.5%. The economic model does not work any more and it is difficult to see how anyone is going to be building affordable housing in South Africa. We have told our steering committee and our applicants that we will not be building these units in the near future.


My new school uniformBulletins

  • This year we bought school uniforms for 45 Ukhanyo School children who are too poor to afford one.

  • We are adding money to Doreen Zanyiwe’s endowment for the Ikhaya Labantwana Crèche. The yield is used to pay for nursery school kids whose parents are too poor to pay.

  • We made a car loan to Sonwabo, the Youth Pastor enabling him to widen his field of influence.

  • We sent the 2007 Annual Report to all 2007 donors (99 of you). If you did not receive a copy and would like one, please let me know (No, you don’t have to make a donation!)



We think we can now see the fulfillment of our objective to have all the MASICORP programs self-sustaining by our tenth anniversary next year. It doesn’t mean they won’t need any money; it does mean they will be managing themselves. Unknown, as yet, is the form of the “transformed” MASICORP from US-centered to SA-centered with SA management of all colors. Nor do we yet understand the connection between the SA and US “Emeriti” founders. Nor do we yet know how many of you will want to declare victory and withdraw and how many of you will want to stay involved through us. So the role of the Founders after next year is still unclear. As we were explaining some of this to one of our scholars he said “But you’re not abandoning us are you” No, we are not. We are just trying to make all this work without us so when we have to leave it can be a legacy of which all of us can be proud.


As always, thank you for your support. None of this would happen without it.



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