By James McGregor, Chairman of the LEAP Board
LEAP is the only school body I’ve ever been involved with, where the chairman has nothing to say! The students do everything. At a recent LEAP event in Johannesburg, where the chairman would usually be required to speak, I didn’t have to say a thing. LEAP graduate and now a leader at LEAP 6, Zonke Mpotulo, facilitated the whole event. She is a living demonstration of what LEAP is all about and she is by no means the only one.
I took over as chair of the LEAP board at the beginning of the year when founding chairman, Anthony Galloway proposed taking on the challenging role of international fundraising. I must pay tribute to Anthony on behalf of the students and staff of LEAP. He has done a fantastic job getting us to where we are today and his on-going passion for the LEAP model means we are still very fortunate to have him in our corner.
It was a tough year financially – we had an ambitious budget and we battled, like many other organisations, to raise what we needed. However, being chair of the LEAP board this year has been an exciting opportunity because it is such a necessary intervention in South Africa. It has been so rewarding to see young people take the opportunities LEAP has given to them and flourish.
We can’t wait for the government. They are simply not going to get the issue of maths and science education right in South Africa in the near future. We can’t stand by every year and watch another cohort of students leave education without any hope. LEAP provides hope; to a limited few – and it is not enough, we must do more – but it is a start.
There is no shortage of ability in South Africa, just a shortage of opportunity.
This country needs educated people, people who leave school with the chance to go on to tertiary education. And that’s what LEAP does. Dr Ramphele’s assertion that we must move from being subjects to being citizens is absolutely spot on. One of the tenants of LEAP is that we don’t just teach maths and science, we teach young people how to face life’s challenges and think for themselves.
There is increasing demand for the LEAP model to be adopted around the country. Someone recently asked, “what about 1,000 LEAP schools?” While we are not about to become the education department, we are going to continue to provide a quality intervention to as many young people as we possibly can. And if we can find more funders like Avenge, HCI, Old Mutual and the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation – who have been so deeply supportive of our efforts – then I think we can move forward with new schools. But it would be irresponsible of us to expand without the financing in place.
We are starting to see more and more of our graduates coming through tertiary education and moving into work now. They are our role models and the best proof that the LEAP model succeeds in bringing hope and opportunity to young people in South Africa.