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Updated: Jul 15, 2021

Axium’s Nobalisa Community Reader programme trains young people to provide key literacy and numeracy support to foundation phase learners and teachers. At the same time, it supports these individuals on their own journey into further education or employment by offering professional skills, work experience, and assistance with applications.

Many people who participate take up chances to complete part-time bridging years or repeat matric, while some pursue university studies alongside work. Although a passion for education and teaching is sparked for a number of Nobalisa, others follow their interests in different directions. Whatever path is chosen, it’s always positive for Axium when members of the team are offered new opportunities.

It has been particularly good to see a couple people go on to study at the Tertiary School in Business Administration (TSIBA), an innovative tertiary institution oriented towards graduating “entrepreneurial leaders able to ignite opportunity and social change.” Asavela Phumputha is now back on the team after a year studying for a Certificate in Practical Business Administration at TSIBA’s EDEN campus in Karatara. We recently took a bit of time to hear more about his experience there.

Asavela’s history with Axium spans several years. Raised here in Zithulele, he first encountered the organisation’s work as a learner participating in additional maths lessons during school holidays. After completing Grade 12 at Seaview Senior Secondary School in 2011, Asavela worked as a volunteer tutor with the Department of Education’s Ka Rhi Gude Mass Literacy programme before applying for a post as a Nobalisa with Axium.

That was in 2015. As a novice Nobalisa, he found story-telling difficult and had to encourage himself to build skills over time. “The only thing I know is, okay, everyone learns from their mistakes,” he said. “It is my first time to do this, so let me get the confidence to do it.”

After two years working at Axium, Asavela was one of a number of people urged to apply at TSIBA. This unique business school aims to make quality tertiary education available to marginalised communities. For a number of years, their EDEN campus, situated in the village of Karatara outside Knysna, was at the forefront of driving this in a rural setting.

Although it has since closed, the EDEN campus worked as an NGO while operating. Every student accepted received a scholarship for board and lodging as well as for tuition. They attended classes, lived together on site, and participated in the everyday running of the campus, fulfilling duties from reception to administration to grounds keeping.

Their programme focused on a combination of academic bridging, environmental issues, and business administration, particularly aiming to give students from rural communities tertiary training that would allow them to participate in the South African economy. It was hoped that post-graduation paths would include going to university for further education, getting a meaningful job, or starting their own entrepreneurial business or franchise. EDEN’s stated mission was “Uplifting young persons from impoverished, rural communities through education, entrepreneurial skills and relevant work experience.”

“Yoh, I was so very, very, very happy!” Asavela said about hearing he had been accepted to this programme after a long and challenging telephonic interview. What followed was something of a whirlwind. He laughs now about throwing things into a bag, hurriedly saying goodbye to family and racing to Umtata to catch the bus, only to finally arrive on campus outside Knysna and think: “Yoh, yoh, yoh, yoh, I can’t live in this place! I don’t know anyone here!”

He encouraged himself to stay focussed on class and study sessions in the IT labs despite initial struggles getting to know peers from different places and facing the age-old hostel problem of missing home-cooked food. “On my mind, I said, okay, now that I’m here at TSIBA, I’m here to study, I’m not here about everyone else.”

In class, Asavela completed 6 modules including mathematics, business management, business administration, accounting, self-management and business communication. His graduation on the 14 December was a particularly special occasion because his was the last class to graduate at TSIBA’s EDEN campus before it closed in 2017. A number of original founders and mentors were there to give speeches on the day. “There were so many people!”

Asavela has recently applied to do his BEd through UNISA and is hopeful it will be another chance to further his education.

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