The Learning Trust

The Learning Trust is a non-profit, grant making and capacity support service provider whose focus is to support and strengthen local, effective and sustained educational interventions and community clusters that target South Africa's children growing up in conditions of poverty and exclusion.

Our Team

Our dynamic team with a diverse set of skills has contributed to the success of the organization over the last six years.

Meet our experienced Board of Trustees:

Christine V Downton, Founder / Chairperson of the Board
Christine is the founding donor and brings considerable skills and experience in leading companies, projects and initiatives in an international career spanning 40 years. Significant achievements include being a founding partner and Vice-Chairman of Pareto Partners, being an Assistant Economic Adviser to the Bank of England, establishing a multi-currency asset management group with County Bank, London, being Senior Consultant to the President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and being CEO and Chief Investment Officer of Nat-West Investment Management. Christine also serves on the Board of Governors of the London School of Economics, The Atlantic Philanthropies and the Drug Policy Alliance and various financial service company and regulatory Boards.

Allan Taylor, Senior Adviser / Trustee
Allan is the initial Senior Adviser to The Learning Trust. Allan is an education and organizational specialist in South Africa and will provide continuous guidance and advice on each stage of the Trust’s development. Allan has over 20 years’ experience advising senior South African government education officials, and leading Foundations, Trusts and NGOs on education issues. His most recent position was as CEO to the DG Murray Trust, a leading large education donor in South Africa.

Nasima Badsha, Trustee
Nasima is currently the Chief Executive Officer of the Cape Higher Education Consortium as well as being an Adviser to the Minister of Science and Technology in the South African government. In a career spanning 35 years she has held many prominent leadership positions, including having been the Deputy Director General for Higher Education in the Department of Education for 10 years as well as being Special Assistant to the Vice Chancellor at the University of Cape Town and Acting Vice-Rector at the University of the Western Cape.

Zola Madikizela, Trustee
Zola is currently consulting for Atlantic Philanthropies and oversees the work supported by Atlantic in South Africa as the organisation concludes its work. He previously worked as Programme Executive for Atlantic for 12 years, heading the Population Health Programme. He servers on a number of important South African committees and boards, including the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Primary Health Care Revitalisation, the Ministerial Steering Committee on Executive Leadership Training in Health, and the board of Mpilonhle Trust (a community based organisation that provides health and education support services to youth in rural schools in NorthenKwaZulu Natal). He holds a Master of Science in Population Studies from the University of Wales.

Siboniso Khumalo, Trustee
Siboniso is currently working as Manufacturing Projects Manager at Bevcan, a division of Nampak – Woodmead. With his M. Sc. in Electrical Engineering, he brings with him strong analytical abilities and a great understanding of business principles. He is also pursuing further studies towards a B.Com in Corporate Finance at Wits University, Johannesburg.

Meet our team of highly skilled and motivated TLT management and staff:

Charles Ainslie, Director / Board Administrator
Charles is the South African Programme Director, responsible for delivering the strategic and operational development of the Fund. Charles brings 10 years of international, strategic project management experience in the private sector to this position, and has led the delivery of projects across Africa, the UK, Europe and North America. Charles is a qualified Chartered Accountant (SA) and is also tasked with the day to day aspects of financial management and accountability and best practice governance in relation to the Fund’s development.

Debbie Schkolne, Chief Operating Officer
Debbie has been with The Learning Trust since 2014 and has only recently taken over the position of Chief Operating Officer. With two Masters degrees from the University of Cape Town, one in Sociology (Development) and the other in Programme Evaluation, as well asover seven years of experience in programme implementation, research, monitoring and evaluation, Debbie coordinates the operational and programmatic work of TLTand leads TLT’s monitoring and evaluation efforts.

Gabeba Gaidien, Programme Manager
Gabeba is TLT’s dynamic community activist and capacity support specialist. She held senior positions at the ELMA Philanthropies and DG Murray Trust before joining The Learning Trust. Gabebabrings with her two Bachelor degrees in Financial and Management Accounting as well as a Mastersdegree in Development Finance from the University of Stellenbosch.

Nonceba Mtwana, Programme Manager
Nonceba has a BA in Communications from the University of Fort Hare and over ten years of experience in the non-profit sector. Her background and extensive experience in project management supports her work at The Learning Trust. In her role as Programme Manager, Nonceba handles grantee portfolios nationally, with a focus on the Western Cape.

Somila Mjekula, Programme Officer
Somila is currently finishing her Master’s Degree in Media and Cultural Studies at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. Her interests and passions lie in a number of fields in Social Sciences and Humanities, including enhancing literacy and the culture of reading in disadvantaged communities of the Eastern Cape. In her role as part-time Programme Officer for The Learning Trust, Somila provides excellent, on the ground support for our grantees and partners in the Eastern Cape.

Kylie Grigg, Programme Officer
Kylie is TLT’s Gauteng Programme Officer. She has worked in the education development sector for sixyears and has a postgraduate degree in Development Studies. Her role is to support the existing grantees in the Gauteng province as well as to support the growth strategy of The Learning Trust in strengthening clusters of grantees for sustainable impact in the communities they serve.

Tebogo Kakana, Intern
Tebogocame to The Learning Trust at the beginning of 2016, after working as an intern and Maths tutor at the Dream Factory Foundation. At her previous internship, she was facilitating life skills sessions and coordinating events. Her internship at TLT has her involved in many different areas with a focus on managing our personal development courses for grantees and supporting the team in a variety of administrative tasks. Tebogo currently studies to receive her LLB Law Degree at UNISA.

Isabel Essen, Fundraising and Communications Consultant
Isabel joined TLT in 2016 to support its strategic fundraising and communications efforts. She has a Master’s Degree in Education and Economics and brings close to 10 years of experience in the South African non-profit sector, including expertise in project management, strategic planning, fundraising and more. Her in-depth knowledge of the national and international donor community and her experience in marketing and communications is a valuable asset to TLT’s team.

Gabriel Boka, Bookkeeper
Gabriel has worked in the public sector as an accountant and auditor for over 15 years. He has a Business Administration degree, a Diploma in Accounting and a Diploma in Credit Management. Gabriel splits his time between The Learning Trust and Wordworks, a non-profit organisation which focuses on Early Childhood Literacy.   

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