FEEL GOOD | WATCH: Manenberg’s free night school giving Cape Flats residents a second chance


Manenberg is more than the negative image it's always forced to shoulder. Burdened by a perception that lumps the Cape Flats suburb with crime, gangs and drugs, the good and the positive often struggle to make its way to the fore.

Yumna Alexander, though, is working to change that picture - and her initiative of a tuition-free school, which offers high school dropouts an opportunity to better their lives, is bearing fruit.

She provides an opportunity for people in the area to get a second chance at carving out something for themselves.

And so, as buses and taxis rumble down Manenberg's main road, many make their way home after a hard day's work. One group of men and women, however, slowly trickle through the gates of the Leadership Centre in Manenberg.

Here, they sit huddled at school desks, waiting for their next lesson at the Hopeful Leaders Night School.

Alexander is the brainchild behind this initiative.

She dropped out of high school after falling pregnant at the age of sixteen.

Founder Yumna Alexander with the mug in which part
Founder Yumna Alexander (Tammy Petersen, News24)

Speaking to News24, Alexander explained that as a teenage mother she couldn't find a permanent job.

"When I first started, I worked in a factory and at call centres. They only offered me contracts because I didn't have a matric certificate," she said. 

Alexander's mother convinced her to complete her schooling career.

"My mom was doing her matric at the age of 50. She suggested that I finish mine as well, so that I could apply for a better job," she said. 

The two, mother and daughter, completed their studies later that year. 

"Once I had my certificate, it opened so many career opportunities for me," Alexander explained.

Today, she is completing her degree in education, in the hope of becoming a teacher - and she is determined to help her community by proving there is more to life. 

"You can't go abroad without a passport. It's the same with a matric certificate - the doors you get to are a dead end without a matric," she said.

Hopeful Leaders Night School is still in its founding year.

FEEL GOOD | A lesson in perseverance as Manenberg night school helps dropouts matriculate

The school relies heavily on the support of qualified teachers, volunteering their time to teach students. They offer classes to 268 students across several subjects, including Afrikaans, Religious Studies and History. 

Isgaak Martin, who was part of anti-apartheid demonstrations during his high school years, couldn't finish his schooling career.

After dropping out in Grade 10, the 52-year-old is now doing Maths Literacy and History.

He is looking to obtain his matric certificate after being retrenched five years ago. 

"It was hard to find another job after being retrenched. Every job I applied for was looking for a matric," he explained. 

"I left school over 32 years ago. For me, it's exciting because I learn something new every day," he said with a smile. 

Martin will be one of sixty students writing their final exams in April.

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