Sibusisiwe Myeni

Imbeleko, Dr Seni Myeni Foundation

What does your company do?

Imbeleko Foundation, situated in the picturesque Valley of 1000 Hills in South Africa's rural KwaNyuswa community - was created in 2010 by former banker, Sbusisiwe 'S’bu' Myeni, and her late twin sister, Dr Seni Myeni. This culturally vibrant and dynamic region of South Africa has a long and troubled socio-economic history, rooted in the ills of the colonial era as much as the country’s more recent apartheid past. Local communities suffer from a lack of basic civil services, poverty, high unemployment levels and the impact of long-term health crises such as HIV / AIDS. System social inequality and under-development continue to weigh families down, often trapping youth in a vicious cycle of poverty. Through the gaps of inequalities faced by rural communities, especially the children in accessing education, health care services, and entering the skills and development world and the challenges posed by the climate change to the Sub-Saharan African countries like food insecurity and water scarcity; the rural communities struggle the most to adjust through these challenges. At the heart of the Imbeleko Foundation, is a deep need to change the prospects of young people living in rural communities, whose current realities are stark. Only 60% of the learners who begin grade 1 reach Matric, and of these, 12% access university education and only 10% graduate with post-secondary qualifications. Imbeleko Foundation is dedicated to uplifting and empowering children and youth in the rural Valley of a 1000 Hills and beyond. Our mission is to empower talented but socially marginalised children to reach their full potential and become society contributing and self-sufficient citizens, with the vision of providing a world-class experience that empowers the rural child that enters our Academy by providing an integrated support system of education, mentoring, and social support – through our blended school in partnership with the University of Cape Town Online High School, Afterschool STEM Programmes; Boarding School and University Scholarships; Wellness, Character, and Leadership Development. Including Mentoring, Tech, and Practical skills Development. Over and above our core programmes, Imbeleko’s initiative range from skills development for out of school youth and unemployed graduates, nutrition and food, healthcare, mentoring, sports; arts and culture – which provide the needed peripheral support to the children’s families to ensure their educational and employment success. Services offered to the community by the Imbeleko Foundation The Imbeleko Foundation operates through a holistic approach. Our initiatives/services encompass a wide range of programmes aimed at providing holistic afterschool education support, scholarships, and skills development at its core. We have made significant development and impact in the last 13 years through the design and implementation of high impact programmes, supported by various partners. Since the inception of the organisation, it has impacted more than more 1000 beneficiaries. Our services include: 1. Academics a) STEM Digital Afterschool Programme: We offer a comprehensive range of afterschool activities, including online curriculum-aligned STEM subjects learning and practice, Coding and Robotics, homework support and 1-on1 + small group tutoring as well as girls' and boys' mentoring + leadership development networks - designed to enhance academic performance and provide additional support to students. •Impacted to date - over 500 beneficiaries; 98% of whom are enrolled at universities. •Currently supports - 225 learners from Primary (100 Grade 6-7) and High School (125 Grade 8-12). b) Imbeleko Academy, a Blended independent School in collaboration with the University of Online High School with current enrolment of 55 leaners (Grade 8-10) c) Boarding School Scholarship Programme in collaboration with 3 prestigious schools in KZN. •Impacted to date - 75 already matriculated (100% enrolled in university for STEM degrees and over 60% have graduated) •Currently enrolled - 15 corporate funded learners. d) University Scholarships Programme holistic support for our university students with over 60 Graduates and 80 currently enrolled at different Universities in South Africa on corporate scholarships or grants. 2. Critical to academic support, Imbeleko Foundation provides holistic assistance to address the various dimensions of poverty. a) Health and Wellness Services: We offer mental health and well-being support to address the psychological impact of poverty and promote holistic development among learners. This takes place at the Academy, and we also host Wellness Camps for all learners. We have a collaboration with Linden Global Learning and Support who provide educational and therapeutic support to international schools. Our in-house Occupational Therapist and Psychology graduate are currently undergoing training from Linden on: •Counseling & Mental Health Support •Psychoeducational Assessments •Professional Development b) Character and Leadership Development: Through diverse mentoring programs, we foster character development, leadership skills, and self confidence among learners, empowering them to realize their full potential. The provides international exposure to our learners through: •A collaboration with Bank of America. Each learner is paired up with a US based Bank of America staffer as a virtual mentor with a structured programme for both mentor and mentee, which is facilitated and monitored by our Career Coaches. •We have a partnership with AFS Global STEM Academies; Extraordinary, full-scholarship study abroad programs for active global citizens who are energized to help solve some of today’s biggest global challenges. The programme has taken 6 of our learners to the US, China, Egypt and India; with the 7th one travelling to Egypt this year. c) Career Coaching – Our in-house Occupational Therapist and Psychology graduate have been trained to provide a Career Development service utilizing Gradesmatch, a technology platform that enables the journey from education to economic opportunity for students in Africa, simplifying the complexities of achieving a meaningful career. Gradesmatch provides: •Personalised career planning to help high school and university students understand the career prospects they can consider, including alternative career pathways. •University Applications Support - their AI solutions help students organise the university and funding applications journey and improve the chances of entry to higher learning institutions in South Africa.

What is your biggest success?

1.In October 2023, Imbeleko Foundation achieved global Apple recognition and accreditation as an Apple Authorised Training Centre for Education (AATCE) for App Development using the Swift platform - a first in South Africa and Africa. Our very own Alumni and Graduate Interns, Sthandiwe Msomi and Nokuthula Duma achieved an incredible milestone – they are the first Apple Certified Trainers for App Development with Swift in South Africa and will be tasked with leading our AATCE. 2. Funded by Apple iStore Core Group to build a state-of-the-art infrastructure for AATCE - launching in May 2024; right in the heart of our rural Valley of 1000 Hills community. With its strong Apple brand recognition, the AACTE training and certification is targeted at unemployed graduates in our rural communities to help them to embark on careers within the digital app economy and become successful app developers, innovators, and future digital leaders. Opportunity: The potential of this can create incremental growth of deserving students and development for youth through tech jobs and businesses and contribute to Imbeleko’s self-sustainability.

What has been your biggest hurdle?

Our biggest hurdle has been addressing the unemployment of our beneficiaries, particularly the graduates. Despite running for 13 years and impacting over 1,000 children through our holistic programs, with over 200 enrolled in higher education and about 60% graduating, the current job scarcity in the country has left many of our graduates unemployed. This challenge has highlighted the need for a sustainability plan to support our beneficiaries beyond their education, ensuring they have opportunities for employment. We are now focusing on creating job pipelines through our Apple Authorised Training Centre for Education (AATCE) to secure a better future for them.