Saturday, 3 December 2011

2011 Mentors survey

So far 6 mentors have completed the survey...thanks to Daphne, Maryke, Zama, Laurie, Kay and Simon. Don’t hesitate to add your comments at the bottom of this page The mentors were very much involved in the program and some really went the extra lengh to help their mentees to register at Varsity. Out of the 6 mentors, 4 met their mentees more than 6 times, 1 left the country in August and 1 only joined the program in August.


The outings they enjoyed with their mentees :

- zoo lake picnic, movies, a visit to our game farm, “a girlie lunch and chatted about life and her family and school”.

- “my mentees invited themselves to my house for a sleepover. I was reluctant initially because of the huge wealth gap, but they kept asking until I gave in. The girls walked around my flat, admired the art, and then announced “This place is too big for you. It’s a waste of space.” We had a great time cooking and chatting together, worked on some maths they had had difficulty understanding, and set them up with email addresses. As soon as they had emails, they said “Ok, so now can we set up Facebook?” One of the girls was hugely keen to use the shower as she didn’t have one at home, and showered three times while she was there. I found out later that she had only ever used a bucket to wash herself (the other girl was quick to interject that she has a house with a bath).



- “I liked the zoo lake with all mentees to exchange ideas and swop stories. The mentees feel very comfortable in this environment and found there could be a beneficial interchange of ideas and a good sense of direction re, what study options available”



Valerie’s comment : We will organise gatherings every 2 months at Zoo lake or another place for mentors/mentees to meet, talk and have fun


They helped their mentees with:

- to get access to websites (5) and set up email address (3)



- Career guidance (6), attending open day (3)



- University/college registration (4), bursary application (3) NFSAS (2)



- school work (3)



- develop a professional CV explaining school and extracurricular work (1), giving details of Discovery Learnership program (1)


The main challenge is career guidance: out of the 6 mentees (one mentor had 2 mentees), only 2 knew what to study next year and stick to it. 4 changed their mind :

- they discovered new options : -“One wanted to study drama (which I think would be a good choice), but has now become confused by all the options available. She has applied for a general BA, although I am not sure whether she will have the points to get in”

- their school results were not good enough :
“Keabetswe wanted to study Engineering, however, when we checked if she had enough points, based on her Grade 11 and Grade 12 June results she realized hat she didn’t. She felt that she would be unable to make the necessary improvements to her Physics and Mathematics results, so she decided to change her career options” ; “Both girls should have been kept back in Grade 11 – both their averages were 40% and it was a challenge for their studies in the long run”

“I'm not sure if he was entirely truthful about the marks he was getting - at different times he said he was getting 40%, 60%, 70% or anything in between for maths, which seemed unlikely. So it was hard to give him career guidance not knowing his real abilities. I was encouraging him to think about engineering, technical drawing, etc, but he wanted to do graphic design - and which way he should go depends heavily on his maths marks”.



- Other challenges : I did not know much about careers and studies ; I was too busy to see my mentee as often as I wished ; my mentee dropped from St Mary during the school year ; it was “difficult to fit in career counseling, open days and applications in good time, especially since all of the career counseling places were only open on weekdays or Saturday mornings, and the girls did not want to skip school”

3 mentees applied for a degree at Varsity, 1 for a national diploma and 1 to study at private college.

Relationships :

2 mentors  had “excellent” and 2 “good”  relationships  with their mentees. “Gladys is a great young lady with a heart of gold and such big dreams and it was a pleasure to mentor her. I am sure she will do great in future”.



1 -found it difficult to connect with her mentee “who was very shy and struggles to communicate her difficulties and ask for help”.



1  was disappointed : “He's not a bad guy but I didn't find my mentee very responsive or appreciative. Often he didn't return calls, texts or emails. He didn't say thanks for the help or lunches, etc, unless prompted. I got the feeling he wasn't really making best use of the opportunity”




The main challenges

- lack of financial means : - some mentees expect financial assistance (which is not the purpose of the program) : a few of them come from very poor families (no money for taxis, cellphone). Most families cannot afford tertiary education fees, for those who do not secure a NFSAS loan, or want to go to a private college.


-Communication : 4 mentors mentioned problems : “she did not return my calls/sms” ; “
Often he didn't return calls, texts or emails” ; “she did not arrive the one day- no call to say she could not make it. She was apologetic and generally very punctual” ; “I lost contact with one of the girls when her phone was stolen. Fortunately, her older sister had added me on Facebook and I was eventually able to contact her that way “

- mentees not pro active : “
my mentees lacked the electronic media to access applications (even though we ascertained there are free internet libraries in Alex) and seemed dependent on me to make it happen”-

Mentees should be proactive in contacting mentors: rather than waiting for mentor to make contact - the program is there to benefit the mentee so they must drive it to make it work for them, they must see the mentor as a resource that's there for them to use ;

  One of the girls kept leaving parts of her application form at home and it took about 5 trips to Alex to have everything as close to in order as possible. Even then, the day before I’d taken leave to submit the forms, I found that she’d only brought her application form for UJ and not for NSFAS. She had me drive back to Alex with more documentation again the day before she submitted (which was the last day for submissions), and then called me at midday to tell me she had lost her form and had not gone in ! This particular girl is normally quite proactive, and I can only imagine that it was the stress of her final exams that made her lose it like that. Afterwards, she called, smsed and Facebooked me to apologise for letting me down!”Other challenges : “some mentees are very shy, at the beginning”

How the program could be improved :

- involve the parents from the start :

One mentor was pleased to meet by chance her mentee’s mother (“she gave me a big hug and said “Take my girl far”). Another one had a fall out with a mother, a teacher who wanted to force her daughter to study education and did not take well the mentor’s help in career guidance : “Since I had a fall out with her mom, it was difficult to contact her as she did not have a cellphone and she gets into huge trouble if I called her home”.

“Other mentees encountered conflic when they gave gifts to their mentees which the parents considered too extravagant”

Both mentors suggested that each mentor meets the parents at the start of the mentorship program “to get their blessing and discuss their ground rules”.

Mentors should request the parents’ permission to give any gift to the child (except for gifts relating to education). Otherwise parents might think that the mentor i taking over their role or undermining them

In case, parents who are preventing their kids from carrying on with the mentorship program, they should be contacted by St Mary (by the way, it happened only once since 2007)

Valérie: I will address the parents at a meeting in St Mary (on Feb 4th, at 9am) about the mentorship program and we will advise 2012 mentors to meet the parents at the beginning of the program. I will also edit the “letter to mentors” (sent at the beginning of next year) according to these suggestions.

Improve Grade 12 readiness :

helpful to meet the mentees in the end of Grade 11 and if some career counseling were provided in advance, so that the mentor can plan the year accordingly right from the beginning”(valérie : in 2012, we will organize career guidance and information about Varsity registration once/month at St Mary for Grade 10 to 12. For instance, 3 representatives of UJ will address the learners, in 3 groups, on Feb 25 at 1 pm)

-.”If the learners whose marks are between 40% and 50% could be persuaded to repeat Grade 11 voluntarily (as is common practice in wealthier schools), they would have much better matric marks and more chance of getting in to university and getting bursaries. There is also the option of upgrading their matric in the next year, but this is more expensive and may not be affordable for them” (according to Linda, the schools are pushing the Grade 11 to their final year, even if their marks are low, because of the “cost of education”, and are reluctant to have them repeat Grade 11)

Exchange experience :

“Mentors should be encouraged to attend more group gatherins, with mentees, to exchange ideas”

“Mentors should be asked to fill in evaluation forms on a more regular basis i.e. every quarter, this will help the program coordinators assess what the mentors and mentees needs are, before the end of the year.

Coordinator’s comment : Mentors and mentees should use this blog to add comments or post information (right click on connection on the top right, enter : sizananialex@hotmail.com and password: alexandra123). Add your own email in “follow by email” to be informed of new post

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