During the June/July holidays every year, Unity in Africa Foundation’s flagship programme – iGems, stages a holiday programme for all of the learners who are enrolled.
The 2018 programme was yet another feather in the foundation’s cap, with it being a resounding success – not least because of the contributions of its member organisations. The programme, which ran for a full week, saw everything from a bridge building competition to state-of-the-art robotics in action, to giving the learners the tools to gain some deep insights into themselves and their fellow learners.
Students were treated to on-site industry visits at the Sunday’s River Citrus Company, Hansens Engineering, Schaeffler, Jendamark and Volkswagen South Africa.
The annual bridge building competition was held in conjunction with SMEC, Labco and SANRAL, where students are given ply wood and tools and a brief to build a bridge – in less than 4 hours. Students work in teams and are required to consider everything from planning, to aesthetics, strength, symmetry and real-world practicality. Much hilarity ensues at the end of the session when 11 bridges are subjected to weight bearing loads in order to evaluate how much weight is required to break the bridge.
The students were also treated to a factory tour of Volkswagen SA in Uitenhage, followed by a visit to the Uitenhage Science and Technology Park– where they were entertained by fun, yet scientific and CAPS aligned experiments and games.
Further into the week the learners were required to dig deep when they were coached in the art of storytelling on an emotional level with internationally acclaimed coach John Lombardo Although this was a tough and tiring event for them, they were able to assimilate their learning points and new-found confidence into artistic storytelling collages.
The culminating and magnum opus event of the week was the student interview process morning. This is an exciting, yet nerve-wracking morning for students, where they were invited to have interviews with member companies for formal placement on learnerships in 2019. The event took the format of ‘speed-dating’ where students paired up and had a few minutes with an employer before moving on to the next table, with the next employer. There were many smiles, looks of surprise and enthusiasm and even some jokes shared between employers and learners.
After these interviews, grade 12 learners then had an opportunity to have an open-floor with current learnership placed students – who shared their experiences in the workplace.
The General Manager of the foundation, Berenice Rose, was ecstatic with the outcome of the week, “These learners are just so close to our hearts. We really want them to succeed and their attendance – not only at their regular, scheduled classes, but at holiday programmes such as this, is vital to their journey – especially for the school leavers’. She emphasised the importance that the programme places on workplace preparation, ‘all of these grade 12 teenagers are on the cusp of moving into the workplace in 2019 – they are going from being big fish in small ponds in grade 12, to being at the bottom of the food chain again. Most, if not all, of them will be the youngest employees by several years, when they enter the working environment. This is incredibly daunting for them, and they are required to grow up almost overnight. The work that we do is critical in helping them to adapt. This holiday programme allows us to prepare them, whilst also allowing them to have some fun and learn at the same time.’
Berenice Rose, General Manager
Tel: +27 (0)41 582 1274
About unity in Africa
The Unity in Africa Foundation focusses on the education and upskilling of young people through their flagship iGems programme. This programme focusses on preparing high school children for the field of Engineering, by placing a focus on maths, science and leadership skills. In conjunction with the 1 year high school preparation programme, school leavers are placed at member organisations on learnerships within the field of engineering for 1 year. After this year they proceed onto university, where they are further coached by the iGems team in preparation for the workplace.
The foundation came about in 2003 after the demutualization of African Unity Insurance and then registered as a trust and later as a PBO. The foundation started operating independently in 2009 and change its focus in 2012.
Donating through the UinA Foundation enables business to focus on their core activities, while the Foundation focuses on identifying credible projects for social investment, monitoring and evaluating to ensure meaningful impact of funding and transparent financial reporting, and regular feedback to donors.