It is difficult not to feel inspired and confident about the future when you talk to John Gilmour, founder and executive director of Leap Science & Maths Schools, an organisation that for the past seventeen years has been providing a self-liberating high school education programme for children who live in our most marginalised communities through the only network of independent, no-to-low-fee schools in South Africa.
Place him together with Kennedy Dembetembe, Head: Corporate Social Investment at African Bank, an organisation equally committed to enhancing the lives of these vulnerable children and you have a powerful winning combination. Last week Dembetembe was in Crossroads in the Western Cape donating stationery packs to the children at the Leap Science school in the area and then on 19 February handed over a cheque for R100 000 to the school in Langa. Based in the St Francis community education hub, this school serves the community of Langa on the Cape Flats. It is the first and oldest of the LEAP Science and Maths schools that include the two Cape Town schools and four other Leap schools based in Alexandra and Diepsloot in Johannesburg, Ga-Rankuwa near Pretoria, and Jane Furse in the remote Sekhukhune district in Limpopo.
“As a public benefit organisation working with beautiful children in communities faced with socio economic problems, we believe that in every child there is a genius. African Bank is helping us unlock that genius. Children should not be stuck because of their economic status. When a bank like African Bank stands with us and believes in the work we are doing, this strengthens our capacity to unlock the potential in these children. Please know how much we appreciate this, to have the support of a bank defined by its African identity, supporting us in unlocking the potential of young people in Africa. Decolonising education through our actions and practices and not just glib words, is exciting and necessary. More important is the liberation of young minds resulting in economically, emotionally, and socially empowered young global citizens,” says Gilmour.
The sentiment is echoed by Dembetembe who stresses how important it is to give these children an opportunity to reach their potential. “We have watched the incredible work being done by John and his team and the results speak for themselves. 95% of their students have passed matric and 79% of LEAP students have degrees or diplomas or are continuing with higher education. They are a powerful example to show that no matter how deprived any child in South Africa is, they can still graduate from high school, obtain a tertiary qualification and look forward to a fulfilling future.”
The month’s activities form part of a broader ongoing educational programme at the Bank. As part of their Back to School activities, there was also a host of donations of stationery, school shoes and computers to other secondary schools in Soweto, Katlehong and Tshwane as well as a R500 000 donation to the Click Foundation in Mpumalanga. “Mathematics, science and English are so critical in guiding young people towards a successful future and if we can make just a small contribution to making this a reality, our efforts will be well worth it,” concludes Dembetembe.