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Columba camps inspire Mogale City learners and educators

Twenty-four Grade 10 learners and six educators from two high schools in
Mogale City – Ahmed Timol in Azaadville and Thathulwazi in Kagiso – who are
on the Columba Leadership programme, have been through six-day intense
training academy camps focusing on values-based leadership that are already
showing signs of positively impacting the schools.

The Columba programme (,
which has been sponsored by Silverstar Casino ( in high schools in the Mogale
City area for seven years, is a high impact and peer-driven leadership
initiative for high schools in economically disadvantaged communities, which
encourages youth to be self-motivated, work-ready, and employable.
Principals, educators (called values champions on the programme), and grades
10-12 learners work together to assess their school’s challenges and
implement solutions, become engaged in social change projects, and enable
learners to develop critical skills for life and work.

Projects undertaken by Columba learners in the Mogale City schools over the
years have included supporting a school feeding scheme, establishing a
library and a book club, cooking for studying Grade 12s, a school food
garden, and addressing learner issues such as late coming, bullying,
gambling, discipline in classes, substance abuse, and even teen pregnancy.

The camps (one for each school) covered leadership values of awareness,
focus, creativity, integrity, perseverance, and service, with training
through interactive and experiential learning that broadened the
understanding and meaning of each value for both learners and educators who
participated on an equal basis in all activities.

Neo Madibana, aged 16, from Ahmed Timol says her initial expectation of the
Columba camp was that it would be a fun break. “But it taught us so much. My
favourite activities were on the creativity value because I never saw myself
as creative, but when I got involved in the projects, people were impressed.
I now see that I have some creative talent and I want to use it. I plan to
start a girls club at school to share information on things that affect so
many girls in my community like teenage pregnancy, dangers of unprotected
sex, HIV/Aids, and STDs.”

Educator Derek Axsel from Ahmed Timol was impressed at the level of
intensity and opportunity for self-reflection that the academy camp offered
everyone. “Every aspect of the learnings was valuable and the teaching by
the facilitators was excellent. We were given practical exercises for
problem-solving and it was interesting to see learners and educators
confronting their own short-comings and determining how to overcome them.
The camp certainly impacted my awareness of the children and changed the way
I reach them and get through to them.”

Educator George Purazeni from Ahmed Timol valued the learnings on focus and
time management. “The importance of time was highlighted and it became clear
that many people don’t get things done because they don’t plan.” Back at
school, Purazeni’s focus turned to empowering young people and helping them
develop themselves and set their own goals and visions.

Blessing Marite, age 16, from Ahmed Timol, was thrilled when she heard she
was chosen to be a part of the Columba programme. “I learned so much about
awareness – of myself and of others. I learned to put myself in others’
shoes. Focus was also an important value for me and if I focus, I believe I
can achieve what I want to.” She is making an effort to share her learnings
with children in the school who are not in the Columba programme.

Thathulwazi joined the Columba programme for the first time last year.
Tracey Hackland, CEO of Columba, says Thathulwazi’s aim is to “equip their
learners to be great leaders in their society” and that they see Columba as
a way to develop and grow the learners to achieve that. She adds that the
Thathulwazi principal, Isaac Lekomanyane, and the school’s educators are
supporting the Columba learners and partnering with other youth structures
within the school.

Lekomanyane says, “Through the Columba programme, we believe we will see
change in learner behaviour that will improve overall learner performance;
to help us put ideas learned in the camp into action; to ensure that
programmes are successful; and to see some of our projects positively
contributing to poor families in the community.”

A win for Thathulwazi is that one of their educators, Yandisa Nombengula,
has had previous experience with the programme and the benefits it offers
the learners and the school. “The Columba programme is extremely valuable to
a school, for the learners as well as the educators. It instils a greater
sense of responsibility in the learners, and it helps us recognise the role
we can play in shaping the school and helping learners realise their

Adele Wilson, Silverstar’s CSI Manager, says, “It’s a great experience for
Silverstar to walk this Columba journey with the learners and the schools
every year – and to see what they accomplish both for the school and for
themselves. The camps were a great success, and the learners and educators
were given an opportunity to address their own personal growth and
leadership capabilities.”

Earlier in the year, educators from the Mogale City schools on the Columba
programme – the Columba values champions – were taken on an empowerment
weekend in Magaliesburg for upskilling, networking, training, and sharing.

At the empowerment weekend, the educators’ sessions followed on from the
initial Columba training with five modules that encouraged them to support
positive change by clarifying responsibilities, roles, and processes;
sharing stories of self-managed leadership; understanding of themselves in
relation to purpose; aligning their passion with their profession by
understanding governance within their scope of work, using educational
policies and the Bill of Rights; and promoting values-based leadership and
youth engagement through youth-adult partnerships.

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