“We have knowledge, experience and time to give, and we want to make that available to students and learners” – UP alumni pay it forward

Posted on April 01, 2020

Nozipho has a BA in Political Sciences and an honours degree in International Relations, while Rorisang is a BCom: Economic & Management Sciences graduate who majored in taxation, financial accounting and auditing. The Alumni Relations Office caught up with them to find out more about their online initiative to pay it forward.

What inspired you to assist students and learners with their assignments?

Several of our friends had been sharing their struggles with having to work from home and keep their children up to date with schoolwork. So we asked ourselves: what if those of us with flexible schedules could take some of the pressure off parents so they could use the time to catch up on work, or assist in areas where parents are unable to?

We can be of assistance to high school learners and varsity students, rather than learners in lower grades, and if requests fall outside our areas of competence we can reach out to friends in various different fields. Also, we know what it feels like to be uninspired by particular assignments, and how having a sounding board can make the world of difference.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that only billionaires can make a difference at this time, when in fact this moment asks of all of us: what do you have in your hands? What we have is knowledge, experience and time to give, and we want to make that available to students and learners who could benefit from it.

What are you hoping to achieve with this initiative? 

We are hoping to make a contribution towards ensuring that students don’t fall behind. Getting input from people with actual experience of subject matter can often make study material more “real” and spark curiosity that helps to turn what is experienced as dreary study into a passion.

We know what it feels like to be so ignited by subject matter that it lights a path to a lifetime vocation and purpose. If we can gift that to others then we will have been successful, especially given that most South Africans have not had the privilege of growing up in households where conversations and experiences primed them for deep curiosity and an understanding of what to go on to study.

Will you continue with this initiative once the dust has settled after COVID-19?  

For now, it’s something we will do during lockdown. This period at home offers us an opportunity to commit some time to an effort like this, which entails both the “contact” sessions and the time needed to prepare for them. The shape it takes beyond this is still up for consideration. If it is having the desired impact, then we would be open to scaling it up or looking to partner with platforms that are doing similar work. 

How will the online-based assistance work?

Firstly, the student would need to send us a request for assistance (DM’ing us on social media would be easiest) with a description of the assignment task they need help with and the part of the task that they are having difficulty with. Students should also send us their CV to give potential assistants some context of who they are assisting (it might also help to put CVs in front of people that might have links to current or future job opportunities).

 

After considering the request, we will endeavour to match the need to someone with the skill, will and experience to be of meaningful help. If it is subject matter that we can help with and we have the capacity to do so, then we will provide assistance ourselves. We will then set up a video-call session or a normal call (we can call the student), or send feedback via email.

It’s important to emphasise that we are not offering tutoring (which requires commitment to a longer-term process that we are neither geared up for nor have the capacity to offer) – just assistance with specific assignments.

What does education specifically mean to you? 

We believe there are at least two types of students: those who go to varsity to learn what to think and those that go to learn how to think. To us, education means acquiring and strengthening one’s understanding of how to think.

Do you have any advice for our undergrads?

Your greatest superpower is curiosity – feed it, nurture it and defend it. It brings pleasure to study, and breadth to the experience of life.

For assistance with assignments related to political sciences, international relations, development finance, media or business strategy, DM Nozipho and Rorisang on Twitter (@TheRealNozi & @roritshabalala); if they cannot help, they will connect you with people who can.

- Author Xolani Mathibela
Published by Xolani Mathibela

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