Global IT solutions and technology provider, Dimension Data, celebrates the 25th anniversary of its hugely impactful Saturday School programme.
The programme offers high school students across Gauteng (and now Port Elizabeth) a free to attend tutoring and educational support programme to assist disadvantaged grade 11 and 12 students with supplementary lessons of their weekday classes
Each year 100 learners show true commitment and ambition to build bright futures as they spend their Saturdays attending Saturday School classes, receiving additional lessons and tutoring in mathematics, physical science, English, life sciences, computer studies, coding, leadership and entrepreneurial skills.
“The Saturday School is our flagship CSR programme because of the year-on-year success it has shown, not just in the results achieved but also with the impact on the lives of those who join us for the programme,” says CEO Grant Bodley. “I’m particularly proud of our staff who give of their time to mentor our Saturday School learners.
“We don’t do this because it looks good on a shareholder report or tells a good story. We do it because we believe a business needs to justify its place and role in society by mentoring the citizens of tomorrow as part of doing ‘good’ business.”
With a consistent 100% pass rate and 93.6% university exemption rate, the results speak for themselves. As the programme marks a quarter of a century of uplifting the next generation of brilliant minds, over 2 000 young people have benefited from the programme including some of South Africa’s top matric performers – many of whom have gone on to study advanced degrees like actuarial science, microbiology, medicine and engineering at university.
In addition, learners also have the opportunity to apply for Dimension Data’s Graduate Acceleration Programme (GAP) and Bursary Programme, and many of these beneficiaries end up working at Dimension Data, taking South Africa’s own technology and innovation development forward and giving back to the programme later.
Says Michaela Voller, Dimension Data’s Chief HR Executive, “Learners who have gone through the programme and experienced the benefits want to give back to Saturday School and are very eager to pay it forward with the current intake of learners. Psychologically this is key, because there’s a degree of relatability and empathy that’s hard to replicate if you haven’t been through the difficulties of trying to secure a quality education with insufficient resources and access. When learners watch firsthand how others in their situation have overcome their limitations, they see a way forward.”
The Covid-19 pandemic has of course presented some challenges in teaching learners in the 2020 intake, but Dimension Data employees have used technology to make the transition as seamless as possible, delivering reliable mobile connectivity so that teachers can teach virtually through WhatsApp where they can share content, answer questions, and facilitate online learning.
Embarking on the next 25 years
Testament to the success of the programme and in the 25-year legacy, the programme now expands beyond the Gauteng region into Port Elizabeth. Bodley says that was driven first and foremost by the company’s employees in the region: “They saw the success of Saturday School and the ‘village of education’ model in Gauteng and wanted to bring that model into the Eastern Cape too. I cannot emphasise how as an organisation the giving of our time and resources has positively impacted our internal culture. I’m grateful, humbled and excited for what an expanded Saturday School will mean for South Africa.”
With no sign of slowing, the Saturday School programme has shown resilience during Covid-19 working tirelessly with the class of 2020 as we approach the end of the academic year, demonstrating the breadth and impact of this youth development programmes across people, their communities and our continent.