Nosipho Bele’s mentorship programme for high-school kids is so life-changing, even the Queen herself is taking notice. By Buhle Mweli
Having grown up in Verulam, KwaZulu-Natal, Nosipho Bele moved to Cape Town to pursue drama studies. On graduating in 2011, she had no idea that finding a job would be so difficult. Then, after spending most of 2012 as an unemployed graduate, Nosipho decided to use some of her free time to volunteer at IkamvaYouth, a national non-profit organisation for young people. This is where Mentor Me to Success was born.
‘I had just finished my degree at UCT and I was so discouraged because I could not find a job,’ Nosipho says. ‘I heard of IkamvaYouth and decided to volunteer as a tutor at their Zolani Centre in Nyanga.’
Nosipho found that even though there were numerous programmes in Cape Town that offered tutoring to high-school scholars, most of them were missing a mentor: a person who would assist learners in making the transition from a high-school student
to a university one.
‘Most people take things like finding the right tertiary institution, filling out their applications, choosing the right courses and getting information for their entrance exams for granted,’ the 25-year-old explains. ‘But the average kid from a disadvantaged background doesn’t have that information at their disposal. Some of them do not even have a person who is invested in their education or holds them accountable for their progress in school.’ After she recognised this gap, Nosipho decided to establish a mentorship programme that would see more than 70 university students mentor a high-school scholar.
Knocking on doors
Nosipho started by finding the right school for trying out the programme, which was easy, as she was already affiliated with a well-known organisation in Nyanga. Secondly, she had to find university students who were willing to meet with learners at least once a term and keep in touch.
‘Each mentor had one student to look after – they took them through the process of applying to universities, checked on their progress in school and met once every term. The learners would have to put together a report on how they were doing and where they needed help.’
We all stand together
‘My dream is to see the programme start up across all provinces,’ she says. Nosipho is no longer involved hands-on – she’s currently teaching drama at a high school and sees herself as one of the mentors. ‘The school I work for wanted me to start a mentorship programme for their scholars; I am excited about the possibilities,’ she beams. ‘More than anything, I want to instil the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood among young people. We should look out for one another.’
This year, Nosipho was chosen as one of 60 young people who will receive The Queen’s Young Leaders award in London. The programme invites anyone to nominate young people between 18 and 29 who are making a difference in the world. In June, Nosipho will travel to the award ceremony at Buckingham Palace, presented by Queen Elizabeth II. Then, she will stay for a while to attend a leadership course.