Matric is indisputably the most important and challenging year in a young adult’s life. As the pressure to perform well mounts, every spare hour is spent studying and urgent college applications beckon. Finding the will to learn can be difficult for teens from disadvantaged backgrounds, as are the exorbitant funds required for university. A majority of South African children attending school deal with frustrations and limitations many of us have never experienced; a lack of stationery and textbooks, unmotivated teachers and packed classrooms – to name a few. It‘s integral to inspire the drive and enthusiasm to learn within students who view school as just another daily chore, and not an opportunity and stepping stone to thrive in years to come.
This is where Project Distinction steps in, seeking to empower the uninspired youth; those who need an extra motivational push to achieve their dreams, and the young men and women who hold incredible potential but are held back by their financial circumstances or lack of interest. These are our future leaders, doctors, lawyers, engineers and teachers. With the right mind-set and mentors, they have the ability to change the world through their education.
Project Distinction opens a window of opportunity for Grade 11 and 12 students who believed that all their doors to success were closed. This youth-centred initiative is driven by a dynamic team of entrepreneurs; Mohamed Jassat, Dr Ridwan Mia, Waseem Ahmed Sirkhot and Ismail Moola. They discovered a huge block that exists within underprivileged public-sector high schools, where there’s a diminished and absent sense of purpose to interact and grow. Project Distinction intends to set measures in place that change the thinking process around education.
Brand ambassador for the project and well-known plastic surgeon, Dr Ridwan Mia says that education is a crucial ingredient in any country’s success. This valuable initiative ties in with his passion to uplift underprivileged communities by demonstrating to young learners how the process of academic achievement translates into lifetime success.
The organisation founders proactively encourage learners from underprivileged schools to strive for the highest examination results. The team’s approach is through motivational talks; instilling a sense of confidence and drive, which pushes learners to work harder and pave their own pathways to success. Their message to the youth is that “nothing is impossible.”
Project Distinction team members visit schools during the year to motivate learners through talks and presentations, and entice them with the prospect of winning prizes for academic achievements at matric level. Project Distinction also invites other motivational speakers to reach out to learners, encouraging them to excel academically. “We have effectively brought the business communities in these areas to the party so that they contribute financially and materially towards rewarding learners for attaining good grades”, explains Dr Mia.
What makes this project unique is that the benefits are two-fold; learners are incentivised to do well in matric, and also receive prizes that would enable them to do better at tertiary level. Positive incentives encourage learners, urging them to succeed in exchange for winning recognition and financial rewards. These are in the form of bursaries awarded to the top candidates, which are paid directly to the universities or colleges attended. Apart from this life-changing academic opportunity, star students are given tech resources and even lunch money for university.
Over the last five years, Project Distinction has targeted ten schools in Lenasia, three in Benoni, one school in the Marlboro Gardens and another in Laudium. Ismail Moola explains that they reimburse the top student from every school visited with a R20 000 bursary. The best academic achiever in matric is chosen in January and is also awarded R5000 in cash, a laptop, a cellphone, 3G cards and other smaller prizes from various sponsors.
The project has grown in leaps and bounds from a sponsorship of R100 000 worth of prizes in 2012 to just over R700 000 in 2017. The growth of the project is attributed to the generous sponsors who are confident that the funds will be channelled to the most deserving students. The top ten students from each school, along with their parents, are celebrated at a lavish gala dinner held at the beginning of each new year. “We pave a pathway into the university experience for them that instils a level of confidence and awareness of motivation required for continuous achievement,” explains Dr Mia.
Entrepreneurs, Mohamed Jassat and Waseem Sirkhot mention that by sharing personal experiences, knowledge and processes behind their own success, they provide students with a more tangible reality. They aim to inspire these adolescents to envision a life for themselves outside the confines that are created by the poverty line.
Mohamed says that we all have a leading role to play in changing the state of affairs in the micro-system of our own homes, our communities and our country at large. “We need to recognise that our input on a ground level is vital and our commitment to making a positive difference is essential in creating platforms for our youth to thrive.”
A child’s future is only as successful as their ambitions to learn and grow. Project Distinction provides these learners with the tools to deal with their direct limitations, and keenly polishes their vision to see beyond them.
For more information on Project Distinction, please contact:
Ismail Moola on 083 754 8900
Mohamed Jassat on 084 555 7736 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Waseem Sirkhot on 084 999 0999/084 421 4229 or email email@example.com