Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Mentors : Frequently asked questions

Would you like to become a mentor in 2012 ? Here are some information, just for you
How do I get help and advice?
Below are the details of the coordination team, please feel free to call them with any questions:

- Valerie Hirsch - 011 784 72 98 (h/w) -O83 750 77 27

- Daphne Mphaga on 082 340 3443 - (email a better form of communication)
The main channel of communication and information is this blog:  Please add your email in the “Follow by mail” block (scroll down the right section) to be informed of any new posts. (see screenshot below)
 You can add a post by clicking on connection (top right), enter the user name ( and password (alexandra123). Then click on “New post”. Once the page open, click on compose. When you have written the post, click on “publish post”. It is great to share information and comments about your own mentoring experience on the blog or on Facebook (Sizanani mentors)
Good communication is key to success!
Communication between  mentors and mentees and between mentors and the coordination team (Valerie and Daphne). It’s important to log onto to the blog and reply to any emails from the coordination team.
You can call us anytime if you are too busy or travelling abroad and your learner needs help. Valerie is available to look for any information you may need for your mentee.
If you drop out of the program, please inform Valerie and your mentee. We will try to find a new mentor for your mentees. Last year, 3 youngsters were very sad after their mentors let them down (one left the country) without informing them.
If a learner is not very committed towards his/her studies, does not return your calls, arrives late at meetings, or does not attend classes at St Mary’s, please let us know. We will find another mentee.

 What kind of outings should I do with my mentee?
Alexandra’s learners are happy to do any kind of outings (visits, sport events, restaurants, cultural shows, nature reserve). There is a list of outing suggestions on the blog. Some can be related to their choice of career. For instance, one mentee decided to apply for mining engineering, after visiting the Cullinam diamond mine with his mentor and he was admitted for a degree at Wits! Another one took her learner (who applied to study fashion at Vaal) to a fashion show.

It’s easier to pick up your mentee at St Mary at 1:45 after classes on Saturdays (on School holidays, they have classes at other venues and sometimes during the week – we will keep you posted). Don’t forget that our learners have not eaten when they finish their classes at St Mary’s. Please drop them close to Alex (or at a taxi rank, with cash for the fare) after the outing.
Mentors and mentees are usually invited to Zoo Lake or another venue for a picnic, giving mentors an opportunity to share ideas and information about the program. It’s also gives mentors an opportunity to interact with the mentorship program.
If you would like other mentors to join you for an outing, just put a post on the blog.

It’s better not to organize outings just before the April/June and September exams and in October, especially for grade 12 students.
Should I go to Alexandra township?

We don’t advise you to go to Alexandra on your own... especially if you have a fancy car. In any case, it is at your own risk...If you need to drop or pick up your mentee, it is quite safe to do it at:

- the Shell petrol station on the Main road. It's just after the bridge if you're coming from Louis Botha.
- or, if your mentee lives on the Far East bank, at the petrol station on London road (near the London road off-ramp on the N3)

In both cases, wait inside the petrol station, rather than in your car....
Another option is to meet your learner at the Mc Donald on the corner of Grayston and Rivonia, but in that case, you might help your learner with some change to pay for the taxi.

Should I meet the family of my mentee?
Parents will be introduced to the mentorship program during a meeting at St Mary, on February 4 (at 9 am, before our 1 pm meeting for mentors).  But some might not attend it...In any case, it is advisable to call your mentee’s parents and meet them (at St Mary, Balfour park, Sandton or any convenient location) as soon as you start the mentorship program.

It is important that parents (often a single Mum) know you. Explain to them what is the purpose of the mentorship program, the kinds of outings you are planning to do and the help you can bring to their child regarding his/her studies. Some parents do not speak fluent English or will not feel confident to talk to a foreigner, in this case, please contact Linda’s assistant, Rosinah Mosoeu from St Mary’s school ( – 072 679 95 07).
We will provide you with some guidelines at our first meeting on the 4th February. Parents are generally very grateful of our involvement, but in some cases, they might worry about the mentor’s influence over his/her child. For instance, some of them have complained about mentors giving gifts that they considered too extravagant (which is not the purpose of the program). In one case, parents did not want their child to further his studies (they want him to work) and another case; a mother wanted to force her daughter to study Education and resented the mentor’s interference. It is important to consult Valerie/Daphne or Linda/Rosinah at St Mary’s should you encounter any of the issues mentioned above. Do not consult the parents directly as this could make the situation worse and make like very uncomfortable for the mentee at home.

Should I you give money/financial help to your mentee?
We DON’T advise you to give any money/presents to your learner; outside the normal expenses occurred during outings. We don’t want to create any feelings of jealousy between mentees or members of their family. And this is not the purpose of this program.
There is one exception: if your learner needs it, buy him the “matric X files” (in the subject they need more to improve their results) or other education material. If a learner is so poor that he/she cannot buy a phone recharge or pay taxi fares, you can give a bit of extra help.

St Mary’s school pays the registration fee at one university for learners with marks that allow them to study at a university institution. You may assist your learner is they need assistance with a university registration fee, check with the learner’s family first and find out how much they can afford to contribute.

Should I invite my mentee at home?
It is your own choice. Some mentors think that the wealth gap is too high and it could be depressing for their mentee. Others say that in any case, Alexandra youngsters are aware of the huge social gap and it is a good experience to be invited in another social environment. 

What academic support should I give to my mentee?
Step 1: getting to know each other

-      Print and give them the “Mentees guidelines” and the  “survival guide to  tertiary education”

-      Find out what their interests are and a little about them (favourite music, past time etc...) – this will help you decide on outings as well.

-      Check their Grade 11 results to see if they matches their career choice (if he wants to be an Engineer, he needs good marks in Sciences, etc). Some mentees lie about their results: you must ask them to bring their school reports!

-      Check that they have an ID

 Step 2: help them to choose their field of studies

 Show him/her the blog, (beststudentsofalexandra.blogspot) explain him where to find information and websites address and discuss with him where he can log on internet (cellphone, internet cafe, school). Show him/her how to set up an email address. Add her/ his email on the blog (on the right : “follow by email”)

-     If they really don’t know what to study, organize a meeting with a counselor (see “career counseling”) or at least, give them the contacts number

-     If possible, organize  a meeting with professionals in their field of studies or with former Alexandra’s students who are already at university (check the data base on our blog)

-     If you have time, go with him/her to Open days at Varsity (1 or 2 max) – St Mary’s school organizes transport for Open day at UJ.

-     Check if they can apply for a bursary or a study loan (speak to the family first)

     Step 3: (June-October)

 -    Check that they have registered at a university and for NFSAS loan as soon as possible!!! Some courses are full 2 months before the deadline.

 Step 4: (Early January)
This is the most important step,  help your learner to get a space in the field of study he has applied for or (if his/her results are not good enough or if his field of study is full), help him to find alternative studies

 We hope that you will join us in 2012 ! It is a exciting program, which can really make a difference in the life of a youngster!

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