The introduction of Valued Citizens Initiative’s Bridging for Life programme to various public high schools across the country has had a positive impact on the Matric results over the past ten years, says Carole Poddeti-Ngono, Founder and Managing Director of the initiative.

“In Gauteng alone, the Class of 2019 saw 84 of its 95 Bridging for Life learners in two public high schools, namely Alexandra and Windmill, pass matric. Of the 84, 69 (73%) are eligible to enter university, far surpassing the 44.5% national average of learners qualifying for tertiary education,” she says.

“Twenty-one of these learners obtained distinctions in mathematics, history, life orientation, business studies, geography, life sciences, Afrikaans and physics.”

Bridging for Life aims to equip its participants with essential life skills ranging from emotional intelligence, effective communication, self-leadership and self-management, career development, citizenship education and academic resilience. The programme sees learners developing self-confidence, communication and problem-solving skills. These learners are also taught study skills techniques, as well as personal and career development planning. The programme exists in the Free State, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal, North West, Gauteng and Mpumalanga provinces.

“This year, 6 of our 7 public schools improved their pass rates between +0.8% to +12.6% where the Bridging for Life programme has been adopted with the Values in the Lead professional development programme for educators, accredited with 15 CPD points by the South African Council of Educators. There were 267 learners on the programme in 2019. Altogether, 78% of these learners (208) qualified for tertiary education.

“This goes to show that when children are involved in programmes that develop life skills and purpose, we get results of this nature. These results are an answer to government’s priorities,” says Podetti-Ngono.

Selection into the Bridging for Life programme is not based on academic performance. Learners are selected based on a 250-word motivational letter they write as willpower is key on a two-year programme.

“Once the euphoria around the Matric results announcement ends, so many of these learners are left in limbo. Many recognise the fruits of their hard work, but have no means or avenues to access institutions of higher learning.

“This is most saddening. To watch learners blossom into something they had never imagined they were capable of, only to encounter this type of hurdle, which many unfortunately struggle to overcome due to socio-economic reasons.”

In Mpumalanga’s Chief Ampie Mayisa Secondary School, 35 Bridging for Life learners wrote matric in 2019. Since Valued Citizens Initiative’s involvement with the school in 2017, there has been a 26.7% increase in their matric pass rate.

Of the 35 learners from the class of 2019, 26 qualified for university and seven distinctions were obtained by Bridging for Life learners while last year only 3 learners qualified at this Gert Sibande District public school.
One of the distinction holders from the school, Sbongile Jiyane, says: “This programme was very helpful. One of the things we learn is stress management, which really assisted me during the exams.”

The learner who comes from a child-headed household says Bridging for Life also helped them learn how to deal with problems at home. “It gave me courage at home and at school,” she says.

Jiyane, who has been accepted to two universities, said she did not know if she would be attending university this year as she was still looking for funding.

Says Podetti-Ngono: “We always aim for a holistic approach in the schools we operate. We try not to focus exclusively on learners. Some of our programmes, such as Values in the Lead, are targeted at educators and school management teams. Those who take part in such programmes develop meaningful bonds with the learners, they provide emotional support where necessary, they transform into passionate and compassionate teachers while building the learner’s resilience to do their best in school.

“To bring investors home has been the homework of the presence of our South African delegation in Davos but it is key to focus on quality outcomes in education as foreign investors need to find their human resources from our South African citizens and not outsource because of the skills gap”.

“The Bridging for Life programme closes the skills gap as 65% of our learners complete their education and work in the fields of accounting, teaching, pharmacology, medicine and engineering.”

Valued Citizens are proud to contribute towards the South African economy.