Saturday, October 23, 2021

The Strive Programme was brought to South Africa by Rod Carruthers, an American Rotarian some nine years ago. Rod shared the programme with Benoni Aurora Rotary Club in Benoni where it has been running successfully since then.

The programme targets Grade Eleven pupils who are in the lower third of their class academically. The Guidance teacher at the school identifies as many pupils as she thinks would benefit from the programme and then asks these pupils if they would like to be a part of the programme. If they agree and if the Rotary club can supply enough mentors, then they’re in the programme.

Acquiring mentors to facilitate the pupils participating in Strive is up to the Programme Manager and very often existing mentors stay on from year to year and tell their friends about the programme. These friends, some Rotarians and some Friends of Rotary, come on board and before long we have our full contingent which is anything up to twenty-five mentors.

Once the pupils have been identified and selected to participate in the current year’s Strive, the Programme Manager addresses the pupils about what they can expect and what they should not expect – for example, the mentors are not there as an extension to the School’s teachers, or in a secular capacity , but primarily to motivate, encourage and counsel the pupils and encourage then to improve themselves and subsequently, their marks.

Pupils and their mentors sign a Code of Conduct before the commencement of the programme.

All Strive pupils are given a badge to identifying them as part of the programme. They wear this badge with much pride.

For the sixth year now, Benoni Aurora Rotary Club is working with a black private school in Benoni, St. Francis College. The school is run by Dian Cockcroft who is the recipient of a Paul Harris Award from the Club as a result of the outstanding work that she has done and continues to do at the school. Mrs. Cockcroft works very closely with the mentors and knowing the pupils as well as she does, her input into the programme is invaluable.

A copy of each pupil’s report is given to the mentor so that the mentor can track the progress of the pupil who they are mentoring.

A Strive manual has been specially prepared and is given to each pupil. On a weekly basis, for an hour at a time, the pupil and mentor meet and together they go through the modules in the manual.

Typically, what is covered in the manual is a personality DNA which helps both pupil and mentor to understand what type of person the pupil is. A SWOT exercise is given where the pupils name their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. There is a section on goal setting and a few modules of time management. Peer pressure and self discovery are important modules and this year we have included a demonstration on mind mapping as part of the study skills programme. Throughout the programme, the mentors keep reminding the pupils about the importance of choosing the right career for themselves – a career that suits their marks, their capabilities and their dreams.

Job shadowing is a part of the career planning and Rotarians are asked to share their expertise with the pupils by offering them a day at their place of work, giving the pupils the opportunity to identify with the job that they have in mind.

Being a Rotary project, one of the most important inclusions in the manual is that of the Four Way Test. An outline of the Four Way Test is given to the pupils and throughout the Strive manual examples are given to test the values of the pupils. Each pupil is given a laminated card with the Four Way Test appearing on it.

Part of the way through the programme, the parents of the pupils are invited to attend a morning at the school, where they meet up with their child’s mentor. A great deal is learnt about the child during this meeting and to gain the confidence and respect of the parents is invaluable for future contact with the pupil. Often, one of the problems with the pupils is a poor relationship with one or more of the parents and at this meeting, this sometimes emerges. Working closely with the parents is often the path to the success for the pupil.

A very special bond is built up between the pupil and the mentor. One of the absolute prerequisites for this successful bond is confidentiality. Once there is a bond of trust between the pupil and the mentor, the results follow. The Strive programme has had some amazing successes over the years with pupils increasing their marks, some by up to 15% in aggregate. A financial reward is given to the three pupils who increase their marks the most at the end of their matric year. These awards are made at a School Strive Assembly held at the beginning of the year after the pupils have matriculated – that is, two years on from when they began the Strive mentorship programme. The Rotary Club of Benoni Aurora’s Vocational Service Committee budget for these financial rewards on an annual basis. The money is paid directly into the bank account of the tertiary education institutions at which the three pupils have enrolled.

Frequently this reward makes the difference between a pupil having a tertiary education and not having one. One such example was in the winner of the top award at the end of 2009 who wanted to attend a college but whose parents didn’t have the money to send him. With the money that he received from the Rotary Club, he is now happily studying to be an apprentice.

However, the most rewarding aspect of this programme is not that of academic achievement, but the confidence gained by the Strive pupils who walk with their heads held high, and those pupils who acquire a value system which they didn’t know existed before they went on the programme. These are the Strive programme’s greatest successes!

Mentors see their ‘old’ students in their matric year, on an informal basis – just to let them know that their mentors haven’t forgotten about them.

The most improved marks: Sibusiso Nokhwe with his mentor, Butch Wilson and Sakhile Mkhize with her mentor, Anne Tudhope (Assistant Programme Manager) along with the Headmistress, Dian Cockcroft.

The 2009 Martic group of Strive students from St. Francis College, Benoni, seen here with Headmistress, and the Deputy Head, Owen Danes.