#AfterSchoolHeroes – Cindy Mkaza: Emagqabini Education Academy

Emagqabini Education Academy is an after-school programme based in Khayelitsha, one of the biggest townships in South Africa.

The area faces many socio-economic issues such as high unemployment, lack of sanitation facilities, high rates of HIV/ AIDS and crime.

It is rare to find positive stories in the mainstream media about Khayelitsha and its people, thus making it difficult to find role models for the youth.

The learners at Emagqabini Education Academy have come to see the organisation as a home, a space where they belong and can begin to shape new possibilities, despite what the everyday environment is like.

Parents and learners recommend it to each other, respectively.

Emagqabini Education Academy works with one hundred Grade 8 to Grade 12 learners, aged from 13 to 17.

Most of the learners are female and are struggling in mathematics and science, with grades of 30 – 33%.

90% of the learners enrol because they struggle with mathematics / maths Literacy and need a space to get assistance. The other 10% enrol because they would like a positive space that nurtures them to do well at school.

Emagqabini Education Academy has four focus areas: academic support, life skills, learner inspiration and community involvement in education.

These projects work hand in hand to reach goals and vision of the academy.

Emagqabini’s vision is to see every young person in South Africa supported to succeed through their high school years and be encouraged to work at their highest potential so that they may gain access to tertiary or post-school opportunities.

The higher goal in mind is to contribute to increasing the number of learners that reach matric and finish school successfully and begin to craft a positive future for themselves and their families.

This is Emagqabini Education Academy co-founder, Cindy Mkaza’s story…

What inspires you the most or motivates you to thrive in your role?

I thrive in my role because of the daily struggles that I see and experience in Khayelitsha.

Despite that I live in the suburbs now I am pulled every day to Khayelitsha through the connection of my family and my work with Emagqabini.

I remember the first time I got to experience a different world than the township; it was when I became a student at the University of Cape Town and began to stay in one of the residences.

On weekends when I went home the contrast between the two worlds were heightened. I felt and noticed the scenery change in the long ride, in a taxi from Mowbray to Khayelitsha.

It starts off with lush greenery and beautiful brick-houses; then followed by flats and then suddenly shacks and more shacks.

As you enter Khayelitsha from Mew Way side the first thing that greets you are the outside toilets and the shacks you see on the side of the road.

I think it is this sight and distance that I experience almost every time I go to Khayelitsha that motivates me, to work to get other young people to succeed in their education so, that they can get out and go back and change things for others and themselves.

I truly believe the key is in education and not only the kind one sits down in a desk for; experiencing beyond your own environment also plays a big role in how one can view one’s circumstances.

This is why we integrate outings and extra-mural activities in our programming because we are hoping that if the young people can see themselves in different environments; they will notice differences and perhaps will see the injustice or see themselves in these places – but beyond this, we want the experience (positive or negative) to fuel them to succeed in their education.

What do you hope to achieve through the work that you do?

I hope to see young people succeed in their education and reach their dreams of living a dignified life.

I say dignified life because most of the young people we work with dream to help take the burden off their parents because they see that to meet their daily needs is a struggle.

I also wish for them to rewrite and shift this narrative of struggle and distance from lushness that I wrote of here.

I wish they would do it for themselves, their families and for many others in our nation.

Emagqabini Education Academy | Our Grantees