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Axium’s Jar of Life

Have you ever heard of the Jar Of Life analogy? Particularly the ‘Big Rocks, Pebbles, and Sand’ theory? In this blog, allow us to take you on a journey to understand how Axium’s Big Rocks (our most important priorities) for 2022 shape what we do, while at the same time providing an overview of our programmatic work (we’ll provide a similar overview of our schools/PSP work later) as we embark on a new and exciting year.

The concept of ‘Big Rocks’ is such an integral part of Axium’s culture as it turns our vision into achievable goals and aligns our priorities accordingly. “If you get the Big Rocks in first, the smaller pebbles and sand fit around.” The application of this analogy was made evident during our staff’s week-long training in early January 2022. Our guiding ‘Big Rocks’ are: strengthening programming as a team, empowering our staff, leveraging partnerships with schools, stakeholders, parents and the larger community of Zithulele and Amajingqi, and planning and monitoring our programmes with accountability. Just like any other working relationship, COMMUNICATION plays a significant role in the success of our programmes. This is why one of our underlying ‘BIG ROCKS’ is Communication, Collaboration and Culture. As Axium, we are of the belief that communication must be clear, efficient and that we all need to speak in one voice.

Our teams are working tirelessly to change the educational narrative of a learner attending a rural school. As we continue reflecting on the organization’s growth and milestones achieved, here is an outline of our programmes that support children through the schooling pipeline and beyond:


A strong foundation in a learner's first language is vital for cognitive development and conceptual understanding in other subject areas. The majority of learners in rural areas have little to no access to books, libraries, or even newspapers and television. Exposure to written text is limited to school textbooks often shared between learners in large classes.

Nobalisa, meaning ‘ storyteller’ or ‘community reader’ is Axium’s programme which employs young people from the local community to do isiXhosa literacy and numeracy. We work with ~1500 learners in grades R-3 at 13 junior schools and run ~30 community reading and numeracy clubs. The Nobalisa team works alongside teachers often faced with overwhelming classroom sizes. With the intention of growing the love of stories and reading for young children using the Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL) approach. After-school, the Nobalisas host fun, interactive reading and numeracy clubs at their homes which children from the surrounding area attend.

This structured support fills in gaps while adjusting learning to the learner's level of understanding following our five levels namely; beginner, letter, word, sentence, and story. The aim is to provide opportunities to rural children for at least three years consistently so they can write and read for meaning by the end of Grade 3.

“Axium is on a mission to encourage young children to grow an intrinsic love of numbers, stories, and reading.”


Masakhane is an after-school programme working with 120 students from grades 4 - 7 by facilitating fun, creative, and interactive English and Mathematical lessons. The aim is to grow the English proficiency of learners by providing them with a safe and experimental space - a stark contrast to the rigid style of learning in local schools. Learners learn through storybooks, games, songs, movies, and drama.

In addition to this learner-focused support, we engage both parents and teachers from the local community and schools to learn more about rural education challenges and better inform Axium's support strategies.

Masakhane, meaning ‘let us build each other’, focuses on strengthening learners’ foundational skills, building their agency, and assisting them with the difficult transition to English as a medium of instruction after Grade 3.


Yenzokuhle meaning ‘do it well’ is Axium’s programme with ~300 grade 4 -9 learners from three primary and junior secondary schools. The students attend additional Maths classes using tablets, Olico and Greenshoots, South African developed digital Maths practice platforms to strengthen concepts essential for access to Mathematics in the senior grades and beyond.

Yenzokuhle believes that “motivation and relationship are key levers as the facilitators build trust and hope with their learners and teachers”.

EKUKHULENI ‘place of growth’ alternatively known as Senior Schools AKA THE ORIGINAL PROGRAMME AKA THE DELIVERY TEAM

Axium Education recognizes the value of graduating high school with good results, especially in core subjects such as English, Mathematics, and Science.

Our Ekukhuleni programme offers additional tuition in these key subject areas and leadership mentoring to 120 high potential students from six senior secondary schools in the area. Ekukhuleni operates every Saturday and school holidays at a central location. This is where learners from different schools engage with each other and with teaching staff to go through conceptual bridges in English, Mathematics, and Physical Sciences. This increases their chances of receiving entrance to tertiary study and builds a spirit of possibility in a motivating environment. These Ekukhuleni students are then responsible for leading weekday 'Study Groups' with 400 of their peers at each of the six schools. Axium supports these study groups by providing academic materials and weekly tutoring visits.

The online learning platform Siyavula has allowed our learners to access tailored math and science practice exercises online. Click here to find out how your old cellphone could help a rural child use this powerful tool.

“The goal for Ekukhuleni learners is to have a pathway to academic success when they leave school, ideally through university but also colleges. We've had quite an achievement in this regard over the 12 past years. Between 60% and 80% of our Ekukhuleni learners get a bachelor's pass and get accepted for a course at university.”


Rural areas receive very little exposure to different kinds of professions. Many students and community members are exposed to only a few occupations, such as teacher, doctor, nurse, pastor, and mine labourer. In addition to this, information regarding university requirements, application processes, and bursary schemes are in great need.

Axium Education supports our grade 10 - 12 learners by exposing them to different career options, and assisting them with university and college, and bursary application processes. In addition to this, we also support the professional development and training of local Axium staff and the community by assisting them in general administration around rewriting their school-leaving examinations, applying to tertiary institutions, or compiling and upgrading CVs for future employment opportunities.

We saw the need to call it Pathways because we wanted to do more than just university applications, we wanted to create ways for even those that cannot go to tertiary institutions due to different factors. This programme launched in late 2021, and we declared 2022 as the year of trying new things.

“Essentially, Axium seeks to build knowledge among high school students and community members about potential career paths and offer assistance on the application processes for opportunities beyond the school years.”

There are many other influential programmes that have helped Axium take shape such as the SMT’s, wherein Axium Education supports professional networks of teachers across schools and subject areas. These networks are aimed at providing opportunities for school leaders and educators from over 15 schools to meet in a productive and inspiring space where ideas can be shared and challenges can be tackled collaboratively.

We thank all of our funders, supporters, and champions for believing in the work we do, advocating for quality rural education with us, and ensuring we continue to make a difference in our children’s lives. To better know how you can support us please click here.

You now know about our Jar of Life, we hope you will develop yours too.



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