'Failure is not terminal' - Cape Town NGO gives unsuccessful candidates a second chance at matric

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The NGO is on a mission to provide matric pupils who failed their exams, a second chance at passing.
The NGO is on a mission to provide matric pupils who failed their exams, a second chance at passing.
  • Ukhanyo Foundation offers matric students who have failed their exams a second chance at matriculating. 
  • The Cape Town-based NGO offers free tutoring, self-improvement workshops and life skills training.
  • Twenty-five students used their services in 2022.

Ukhanyo, a non-government organisation (NGO) in Philippi Cape Town, is on a mission to give students who have failed matric a second chance at passing. 

The foundation, launched in 2019 primarily to support students who have failed their matric year, offers tutoring services so that unsuccessful candidates may feel empowered and equipped to retake their exams the following year.

Sandiswa Gwele, founder and CEO of Ukhanyo, said she noticed a need to help underprivileged youth who may not have the resources to retake their exams.

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“Without a matric certificate, they are more likely to be unemployed, have no prospects to improve their lives and get trapped in a cycle of poverty within their families or communities. I believe that unleashing the dreams, enthusiasm and vision of the youth is crucial to the continued development of society," Gwele said.

The organisation is "small but mighty", starting with 10 pupils in 2019 and growing to accommodate at least 25 students now.

“They lack access to a high-quality education, lack sufficient resources, cannot afford tutoring, and are generally unsupported by their own families. I feel that is where we can make the most impact."

For Gwele, the work Ukhanyo does is personal. She, herself, had once failed matric.

"[I] understand the power of a helping hand and a second chance. I believe that my own journey can be a source of encouragement for students. Failure is not terminal, " Gwele said. 

“You can transform it into an opportunity and emerge stronger.”

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They offer tutoring programmes based on their curriculum at school, self-improvement workshops and life-skills training.

"We currently have two full-time tutors who focus on pure mathematics, physics, mathematics literature, and life sciences. Ukanyo’s services are free and aimed primarily at assisting matric students in townships as this is the area where we saw the [biggest] need," Gwele said.

Like most NGOs, Ukhanyo also faces funding challenges.

Ukhanyo is supported by its family business, L&S Shuttle Service, and other individuals within Gwele’s network, relying primarily on collaborations and partnerships for funding.

Gwele said they have seen great success in the Western Cape and recently partnered with an intentional organisation, Women in Tech, which aims to promote education in STEM for women and girls. 

The work that the organisation has been doing earned them an award for the Global Best Ally at the most recent Women in Tech Awards in 2022.

On their biggest challenge, Gwele said that Ukhanyo is battling to secure funds to pay their tutors and hire additional tutors, which they aim to do so that they can accept more students for other subjects.

"The rewards outweigh the challenges," Gwele said. 

“No amount of money or gifts can make me as happy and content as seeing my students succeed, regain their confidence, and find the courage to pursue their ambitions. It is a really profound internal sensation that makes me delighted that my purpose on earth has been fulfilled.”

She encourages parents and students not to see their results as a failure but rather as redirection and a second chance to do better.

“Remember that your results are not an indication of your intelligence, and so they will not determine your success in life. Take the time to reflect on the last year, transform your weaknesses into your strengths and return even stronger than before.

"Do not give up on your dreams and never forget that there is always a second chance," Gwele said. 

It is important to remember that this period may not be positive for everyone who wrote matric exams.

If you or someone you know is at risk, reach out: 

Suicide Crisis Line: 0800 567 567

SADAG Mental Health Line: 011 234 4837

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