WHAT WE DO
The AEC’s primary focus is, accordingly, to sponsor indigent but academically promising high school children from the township of Alexandra at quality partner schools.
The more funding we receive, clearly the more children we can support. The AEC is a registered Public Benefit Organisation (PBO) (930-000-698) and Non-Profit Organisation (NPO) (025-968); as such no Government grant is given to support our work, and we are fully reliant on sponsorships and donations to sustain our efforts. We meet Broad-Based-Black Economic Empowerment criteria, and offer Section 18A tax certificates.
The AEC pays for the bursars’ school fees, transport, school uniforms, text books, stationery and the necessary IT devices, such as laptops and tablets. Essentially, the bursary allows the child to focus on his or her studies and achieve excellent results. We are proud to say that our bursars have achieved close to a 100% pass rate since 1996, as well as a very high university pass rate.
The AEC, therefore, seeks to directly impact the lives of young people in Alexandra so that they are able to benefit from tertiary and professional opportunities denied to most of their parents and family members.
History of Alexandra
Alexandra is the oldest township in Johannesburg, having started as a small enclave in 1912 serving the farms and mines, eventually developing into one of the most vibrant communities in South Africa. It has been described by Nelson Mandela as “exhilarating and precarious”.
“Alex” has, sadly, however, become a largely poor and overcrowded square mile existing in stark juxtaposition to the richest square mile of Africa, Sandton, which lies within walking distance.
The area has seen a high unemployment rate. The unemployment rate in the township also deepens the existing socio-economic inequalities which are all too evident. There are too many hungry households, with many living on social grants without the means to provide for their most basic needs.
For many arrivals, Alexandra is viewed as a place of transience, with the hope, often fruitless, that better opportunities will open up elsewhere. “Alex” is ill-equipped to manage the constant arrival of increasingly more desperate and indigent victims of the widespread hardships affecting the country. Estimates as to the number of people in “Alex” range from 750 000 to one million. The 5 high schools have to cope with school numbers never intended for the size of the premises; the class sizes are often 3 or more times that of their suburban counterparts. Primary school classrooms can have 80 children in them. Teaching a class of so many children is obviously very challenging and individual attention is seriously compromised.
Against this background, children who attend schools in “Alex” have significant factors comprising their education:
Capable Maths teachers are in short supply generally in the country but specifically in the poorer areas
Learners are severely compromised on the language front:
• they are taught in their mother tongue until grade 4; regrettably 4 years of primary school English does not equip them for high school where typically, in the Johannesburg area, English is not only the language of instruction but also a compulsory “first language” in many schools when it would seldom be the first language spoken at home; and
• they are obliged to take a second language (FAL: First Additional Language). The primary schools in “Alex” for, presumably, historical reasons typically have Afrikaans as the second language offered, also a language not often spoken at home.
The home environment would not normally be conducive to studying with there likely being:
• no quiet space in which to learn or read owing to small, overcrowded rooms;
• little in the way of role-modelling of good work practices or reading habits owing to little family tradition of mainstream learning;
• an expectation that children do all the chores;
• limited nutritious food; and
• no Wi-Fi or IT devices other than an old phone with a cracked screen (with data a luxury).
To exacerbate an already awful situation, the devastating effects of Covid and the related lockdowns have resulted, to a very large extent, in two lost years of schooling for the majority of South African children, increasing the socio-economic divide between those attending quality schools and those attending poorly-resourced schools.
The Alexandra Education Committee (AEC), was founded in 1996 by Deane Yates. It reached its milestone of 25 years in operation in 2021. It is a proven and well-managed school bursary scheme, where promising learners from Alexandra, Johannesburg, are provided with quality secondary school education. In addition to being put through high school, learners are given extensive support through our Saturday and holiday programmes, counselling and mentorship, as well as extra lessons in subjects they find challenging. The AEC also runs Maths and English development workshops for primary school teachers in Alexandra.
Vision: The AEC contributes to the economic and social development of Alexandra and the wider community through enabling high potential individuals from severely disadvantaged backgrounds to achieve their potential through obtaining excellent education.
Mission: The AEC achieves its vision through: identifying high potential learners; granting bursaries to these individuals for the full five years of high school education at quality schools; and providing necessary support to ensure the sustainable success of bursars.
Strategic Objective: The AEC seeks to increase its impact significantly by offering more bursaries as sponsorship funding permits.
The AEC enjoys active support from the principals of Alexandra primary schools; the “committee” of the NGO’s name refers to the collaborative nature of the organisation involving the participation of the principals, one of whom represents this stakeholder group on the Council.
Admission tests are more inclusive than exclusive with 65% average in our entrance tests and above being academically acceptable. Potential bursary candidates in grades 6 and 7, recommended by their primary schools and successful in their entrance tests, attend our junior Saturday School. Top grade 7 performers are then offered bursaries for their entire high school careers.
Saturday School and Holiday School
Saturday School is a vibrant aspect of life at the AEC. Some 400 children attend every week from grade 6 to matric.
We are like a school within schools.
Provision of Saturday School lessons is offered to nearly 180 grade 6 and 7 pupils in English, Mathematics and coding. Meanwhile, all AEC bursars, from Grade 8 to Matric, attend extra lessons each Saturday in the gateway subjects: English, Maths, and Physical Science. Recently we have added computer coding to the programme.
Holiday schools are tailored to the needs of our bursars. The grades 7, 8 and 9s focus on Maths and English.
For the grade 10, 11 and 12s, lessons are offered in Maths, English and a number of the elective subjects.