When Katsi first walked into the training4changeS (t4c) academic support session, the primary school boy from Kayamandi felt the walls of limitation and struggle around him. A typical classroom for his age would have one teacher to around 40 students and very few resources provided. Katsi had been struggling quite a bit in school with math and reading and even counting. He had been discouraged countless times by his marks and negative feedback from educators. At the t4c academic session, however, Katsi’s walls began to be taken down. He had tutors come alongside him in the subjects with which he struggled, gaining the opportunity to read material that interested him and learn math through activities that amused him.
Training4changeS (t4c) is a non-profit whose Futsal Academy brings at-risk boys ages 9-12 from diverse South African backgrounds together onto one team that creates a safe place for holistic learning, coaching and mentoring. The boys receive high quality coaching from a former national futsal coach and mentoring from their coaches, who care deeply for each child.
“In addition to pursuing excellence on the pitch, we are using futsal as a means to bridge existing socio-economic gaps, promote tolerance, celebrate diversity and create a shared learning platform for the community,” says Daniel Thomae, t4c co-founder.
One way that t4c has ventured beyond futsal coaching to pursue holistic development within the boys this year is to create a space every Thursday for the boys to improve their math and reading outside of the school walls. After meeting with the parents and teachers of these boys, t4c identified this need to come alongside them in academics to help create more opportunities for their future and help them in areas they are struggling in.
“At the t4c class, I learned to count and read,” said Katsi. “I like the stories we read. Before these classes it was much harder for me to read. I like the coaches too— they help me a lot.” According to Katsi’s coaches/ tutors, he has worked very hard in these sessions and they are seeing great improvement. “Katsi is improving a lot in math. He didn’t know the signs for adding and subtracting, but now he knows them.” said Azola, one of his coaches. “I’m excited to see Katsi each week.”
Many educational and societal walls are broken down by these sessions with Katsi and the other boys on the t4c. The students gain self-value from individualised tutoring in an environment that maintains an average ratio of 1 teacher for every 3 learners, compared to their normal school environment where there is 1 teacher for 40 students in a classroom. The walls that make students think education is limited to abstract numbers on a test are broken down as well as students do interactive activities and apply reading and mathematics to areas of life that are directly relevant and interesting to the life of a 12 year old boy who loves soccer.
Racial walls are also torn down in these afternoon hours. Not only are Black, White, and Coloured (mixed race) boys gathered together on a futsal team, but they are led by Black, White, and Coloured coaches and taught by Black, White, and Coloured tutors.
Caleb Duttweiler, who has combined his experience from years of teaching with his passion for futsal and creativity to help t4c start this initiative, says, “Part of our goal at the Thursday sessions is to help students not only improve at academics but also to show the students that they’re skilled in other areas as well. Katsi struggles in almost every academic area, but when we did an activity that requires problem solving, he led his team to solve it. By doing that we’ve given him space to struggle in the areas he is behind in, while feeling supported, and then allowing him to excel in areas that the more academic boys might find more difficult.”
Tamson Jacobs, has added a new element to the initiative’s leadership team with her female presence and has had a hugely positive influence on the boys. “I love to be part of impacting little ones,” Tamson explained. “Teachers don’t always focus on one person, so it is great how we are able to do that and show value to the boys. It’s cool seeing them growing not just academically, but we can see it on the field and how they interact with each other.”
Another volunteer Azola Vetoza, grew up in Khayelitsha township and understands the backgrounds that a lot of t4c boys are coming out of each day. “I’m passionate about working with kids and applying what I’ve learned to give them guidance.” Azola said. “I want to make sure in the future they can make good decisions for themselves and be a light to the environment they live in and an influence to other kids. We need young leaders. We need the young people to not limit their dreams. Boys from Black and Coloured townships tend to imitate wrong role models. I want to change that.”
Training4changeS’ commitment to supporting education outside the school walls and holistically developing the minds of young South African boys has been transformative not only for the boys who are doing better in school and beginning to see learning as fun and creative, but also for the coaches and tutors who get to come alongside the boys each week. They see growth and enlightenment happening, and it shows as every time the boys confidently stick up their hands when they know the answer, when they smiles as they turn over a page in their story about soccer, and when they linger at the end of the day to hug their coaches that they know will support them through their struggles.