Nelson Mandela Bay consultancy Vision4 Women launched its first mentorship programme with 30 girls at the beginning of last year, pairing the Grade 12 girls with caring role models who gave the girls input and inspiration throughout the year.
Several are now headed for further studies, with "A”-pupils Sinazo Bentshumani, 18, and Amanda Hobana, 16, among them. Motherwell teenager Amanda, who matriculated from Masiphathisane Senior Secondary School, said the businesswomen involved with the project had boosted her confidence.
"They have shown me I can be anything I want to be,” she said. "Many of our brothers and sisters go to varsity but they do not complete their courses. If it were not for my mentors I would still have gone, but I would not be as positive about my chances to complete my degree.”
Like most girls selected, Amanda’s path has not been easy: she and her younger siblings lived with her grandmother until she died at the end of 2011. Amanda, then just 15, had to head the household and take care of her younger brother and cousins for several months. She faced a daunting matric year.
"It really affected me when my grandmother was sick and financially we were struggling but I managed to pass Grade 11,” she said. "Then at school last year they asked for girls who were interested in business for this project. At the time I was a bit hesitant but my friend convinced me to go and try.”
Project manager Gigi Mesani said Vision4 Women approached several township high schools, asking them to recruit up to five girls and submit an essay outlining their career dreams.
"We were looking for girls with drive, who knew where they wanted to go, so we chose them based on good attitude as we knew we would be able to work with that even if they did not have a good pass,” Mesani said.
Armed with their mentors’ input, Amanda and Sinazo both soared through year-end exams with several distinctions each.
"I realised the mentorship was a lot more than I expected – it was way different,” said Amanda. "It was not only focused on business but on our dreams. It was about teaching us values, how to take care of ourselves, get ready for university. Now I am going to be a CA.”
Her hard work has also been rewarded with a Thuthuka bursary offered by the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants which will cover her university residence, tuition and a few extras such as books at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.
Sinazo, originally from Peddie, finished her matric at Khumbulani High in Centrahill with four distinctions and is also on her way to NMMU to study accountancy.
"The mentors were successful women who would encourage you, and had already made it. It meant a lot to me, and I learnt a lot,” Sinazo said. "I’m hoping they will go to my school again this year.”
Of the 25 girls who finished the year on the mentorship programme, 87% passed, and Vision4 Women is now looking at this year’s intake.