St Mary’s Menston in South Africa – Bambisanani

Over the past seven years, St. Mary’s Catholic School, Menston has developed a unique partnership with a school in one of South Africa’s poorest rural areas. 

Click on any image to see the set as a slide show.

This summer 14 Sixth Form students, three members of staff and a business sponsor visited Mnyakanya School in the deprived Nkandla region of Kwa Zulu Natal to develop the collaborative work between the two schools and wider community, which is referred to as the Bambisanani Partnership (Bambisanani being the Zulu word for ‘working hand in hand’).

The Bambisanani Partnership uses sport as a catalyst to promote education, leadership, health and global understanding. This visit was led by Assistant Headteacher and founder of the partnership, David Geldart, supported by Martin Green and Amanda Murphy from St. Mary’s and Kevin Emsley, chairman of law firm Lupton, Fawcett, Lee and Priestley.

The students were: Lizzie Banks, Ryan Clarke, Kavindu Appuhamy, Patrick Connolly, Emily Fieldhouse, Elizabeth Garnett, Michael Jones, Freya O’Connor, Jade Rigby-Williams, James Riley, Hannah Smith, Chloe Tindale, Madeline Tysoe and Charles Walker.

An oasis of hope in Nkandla

The Nkandla region is in the heart of Zululand and is extremely deprived with 90% unemployment, 60% adult illiteracy and one of the highest HIV/Aids rates in the world with one in three adults infected. Mnyakanya School is relatively poorly resourced with classes of sixty plus. Yet despite this, the school offers an oasis of hope for which many students walk two hours to attend.

An important aspect of this year’s visit was to develop a relationship with the well-resourced and highly successful Eshowe High School situated approximately an hour away from Mnyakanya. To that end, four students from Eshowe were invited to join the Bambisanani Leadership Programme for the week with St. Mary’s and Mnyakanya students.

Nobantu Zondi, Sphesihle Zungu, Mangaliso Tembe and Prince Heahector consequently joined the team and added significantly to the project.

During the visit, St. Mary’s students, supported by Eshowe students, mentored twenty Mnyakanya students through the Bambisanani Leadership Course. An aspect of the course was for students from all three schools to jointly organise and deliver a Cricket and Rugby themed Sports Festival and a Reading Festival for ninety two children from Ntolwane Primary School. These events, planned and delivered by students, were a remarkable success at every possible level.

Mnyakanya students valued the programme highly:

Nokuthobeka Ngcobo: It is important for South Africans to have connection with people from other countries – this is why the Bambisanani Partnership is so important. I have learned that we are all the same even though we have different skin colours. It is important to develop young leaders because older people in the community need help. The partnership has taught me to lead and I am very proud of myself – it shows that I am improving as a person. I am more confident now and respectful; I want to carry on leading.” 

Msizi Nzuza: The partnership is bringing two different countries together to share their strengths in order to learn. I have learned not to judge people but to encourage, share ideas and work together. This partnership is an example to other countries and it must continue. Bambisanani is needed all over the world.” 

The impact of the experience on the Eshowe students was also interesting and significant.

Mangaliso Tembe: The Bambisanani Partnership is giving young people from the UK and South Africa the opportunity to become great leaders and understand the needs of others. It encourages young people to believe that they can be something. Bambisanani brings unity to the community. I have learned that you cannot work alone to be a good leader – you need a team. Bambisanani is a great team building partnership that is helping young people, schools and communities. May God bless this partnership.” 

St Mary’s pupils as teachers

Whilst at Mnyakanya, St. Mary’s students also taught a range subjects and activities to students including: maths, science, history, chess, dance, football, rounders and netball. The St. Mary’s team brought with them much needed equipment for Mnyakanya School including books for the Bambisanani Library (opened three years ago), calculators, and resources for art, science and sport.

The final day culminated not only in the Festivals but also in a remarkable celebration event at Mnyakanya. At this event the following twenty Mnyakanya students proudly received the Bambisanani Leadership Award in recognition of successfully completing the course: Bhengu NtuthukoMncedisi Cwele, Sanelisiwe Dlamini, Thandokuhle Dludla, Noxolo Dube, Celiwe Hadebe, Nokwethemba Magwaza, Siyabonga Mbambo, Menzi Mbambo, Nomcebo Mchunu, Ayanda Mkhize, Cebisile Mkhize, Nonkululeko Nala, Nokuthobeka Ngcobo, Banele Ntombela, Msizi Nzuza, Sifiso Shabalala, Mluleki Sibiya, Xolani Vilakazi, Sithembile Zuma               

Special awards in memorium – Laurie McCauley and Sbonelo Magwaza

A number of very special annual awards were also presented in memory of two young men who have died in recent years. Three years ago Laurie McCauley from Otley sadly died. Laurie was passionate about sport and literature and his family donated two special awards in these areas to be presented annually at Mnyakanya School to support the partnership. The awards are referred to as ‘Laurie’s Legacy’ and this year the Most Improved Footballer Award was won by Mbuyiseni Ndlovu and the Creative Writing Award by Hlengiwe Zuma.

At the ceremony Mbuyiseni said: It is a great honour to win this special award. Laurie’s awards inspire learners at Mnyakanya. I am further inspired because I have won it.

Another annual award was also presented in memory of Sbonelo Magwaza, a Mnyakanya student who also died three years ago. Sbonelo was an outstanding young leader who, a year before his death, had successfully completed the Bambisanani Leadership Award. In tribute to Sbonelo each school now present an annual Sbonelo Magwaza Award for Outstanding Leadership. The award this year was won by Zinhle Zondi and presented by Sbonelo’s uncle Bernard Mawaza who is the Security Guard and Football Coach at the School. At St. Marys, the award was won by Brogan O’Connor and presented earlier in the year.

Support for HIV/Aids orphans

The St. Mary’s team spent time working at the Zulufadder Orphanage Day Care Centre. Zulufadder is an organisation that supports and cares for HIV/Aids orphans and vulnerable children throughout Kwa Zulu Natal.

The St. Mary’s team brought a range of equipment for the orphans and spent time singing, dancing, reading and playing sport with the children as well as serving meals.

They also met Zulufadder staff and volunteers including the incomparable Popi, a Zulu lady who has devoted her life to working with orphans. She is the Playschool Manager and is enthusiasm and devotion personified. Popi had a profound effect on the St. Mary’s team causing them all to reflect on and discuss her significance as a genuine role model and inspiration, compared to the so called celebrity role models that many people admire in the UK. The team were joined at Zulufadder by fellow St. Mary’s students Joe Doonan and Daniel LeRoux. Joe had visited South Africa in 2012 as part of the St. Mary’s group and was so inspired that he vowed to return as a volunteer at Zulufadder and in rural schools for three months before going to University. Daniel has family in South Africa and was keen to support the partnership by volunteering at Zulufadder, again before starting University.

The visit to South Africa clearly had a tremendous impact on the St. Mary’s students:

Elizabeth Garnett: What I have learned is that the words ‘I want to be your friend’ are powerful enough to change the world. All it takes is two people meeting as equals and finding common ground. This is what the Bambisanani Partnership does.” 

Ryan Clarke: The Bambisanani Partnership encapsulates the passion for learning that Zulu students have. Developing and inspiring young leaders is essential for the development of all societies. I am eager to return to South Africa and extend the Bambisanani legacy. 

Freya O’Connor: I cannot convey my sense of pride in watching the Mnyakanya students grow in confidence during the leadership course. Initially shy, introverted students were transformed into amazing inspirational leaders. There are lots of great things about this partnership but helping a community gain twenty confident leaders and knowing impact this could have has shown me that small changes can make a big difference in the world.” 

Chloe Tindale: All my expectations were exceeded; I have experienced so many things that will stay with me forever. I never stopped learning and smiling; it has made me think so much. I am so grateful for the wonderful opportunity I was given.” 

Hannah Smith: I never thought I would meet so many optimistic, loving and inspirational people. I have had an amazing time with twenty four young African leaders who have all developed since the start of the course: I feel so proud to knowing that I have been part of their development. The Bambisanani experience has a profound impact on me and I am so grateful for the opportunity.” 

Lizzie Banks: I didn’t realise how much pride I would feel when witnessing the students I mentored achieve more than they ever thought they could. I have gained more from their success than from my own.” 

Kavi Appuhamy: I have encountered a wave of experiences which have genuinely refined my global perspective. Some of the people I have worked with have inspired me to open my mind and be courageous to achieve something extraordinary. I have had an education in life which is priceless; it will be pivotal for the rest of my life.” 

Charlie Walker: This has been the best experience of my life. I have never learned so much in such a short time. It has made me think about things that are important and things that are not important – sometimes we get our priorities wrong. I would like to return to South Africa” 

For teachers to the partnership is a source of learning and inspiration:

Hlomisani Sikhakhne, Ntolwane Primary School: The St. Mary’s team communicated very well with my learners; they created a new picture about white people because before they were thinking that white people do not like black people. Our visitors showed humanity and respect, they taught reading and the sports of Cricket and Rugby. They also taught the educators. Our friends have love; they always have a smile on their face. I wish they could be with us every day.”

Melusi Sikakane, Mnyakanya High School: Our two communities are sharing together and learning together. The partnership is helping us to face challenges – to face them and to solve them. Our dreams come true with Bambisanani – it opens our mind to look far. Long live Bambisanani.” 

Mary Faragher, Eshowe High School: Students are brought together from different parts of the world and vastly different backgrounds. Facilitating learning experiences like this where young people succeed at creating something in the real world is what I most want to do as a teacher. What I took away is how people flourish and achieve when put in the right environment. It was wonderful to see how the students developed and expanded during the programme. If only there were more projects like Bambisanani that encourage young people to develop their real talents.” 

Amanda Murphy, St. Mary’s: The Bambisanani visit is an amazing adventure that is both heart-warming and thought provoking. We have all seen and experienced things that are indescribable to those who have not experienced them; all of which can change a person in a way that cannot be measured.” 

Martin Green, St. Mary’s: The positivity and genuine enthusiasm I witnessed amongst the students was truly inspiring. I have no doubt that all of these young people have the potential to achieve great things in their lives. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to share in their emergence as outstanding leaders.” 

In recent years St. Mary’s have invited colleagues from partner schools and business sponsors to join them in South Africa. Kevin Emsley joined the team for the 2013 visit and learned first-hand about the partnership that he has supported for several years.

Kevin Emsley: As a result of the visit I was welcomed into the unfamiliar worlds of Education and South African culture. I had understood that the Bambisanani Partnership sought to achieve the development of future leaders in both continents. I have been privileged to have witnessed and participated in an event that I believe has achieved these objectives. A combination of energy, enthusiasm, spirit and willingness to learn under the assured guidance of an excellent and experienced teaching team created the practical experience of delivering major community events in a foreign country. It was done with humour, diligence, empathy and adaptability. It will change the lives of all those who participated and hopefully contribute to the skills and, more importantly, confidence of all involved to become excellent leaders of the future. For me it has been a huge pleasure, a great learning experience and I am humbly grateful to the teachers and students for allowing me to play a small part.” 

David Geldart was delighted with the visit: We had a fantastic team and I cannot praise them all enough for what they achieved. My colleagues Amanda, Martin and Kevin made the most wonderful and unique contributions and the students responded in ways that continually gives me faith in young people. When I see the impact of our work on young people and adults in both countries outlined in this report it is clear that despite many difficulties and frustrations, we are making a real difference in some people’s lives.All those involved are changed in some small way and it is these small changes that ultimately make a difference. Those involved are challenged, tested and removed from their comfort zone; as a consequence they learn and grow, achieving things that they did not think possible. Each group that goes to South Africa stands on the shoulders of those that have gone before; the expectation is to build on that platform and achieve more – the students from both countries did not disappoint and have taken the partnership to a new level this year. They have all achieved and the experience has given them a wider view of the world. I am looking forward to see what they do next. Special thanks must go to all our supporters for their outstanding contribution to this project.

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