‘Weather-wise, it’s such a lovely day
Just say the words and we’ll beat the birds
Come fly with me, let’s fly, let’s fly away…’
Ol’ Blue Eyes at his best and suprisingly we do not plan on flying with Frank Sinatra, but directly into the world of mathematics. Clayton Cameron – Sinatra’s drummer – said that all music shares a fundamental beat which is inherently underscored by mathematics. And hence, from music to maths to flying with FLY (Fun Learning for Youth).
Mathematics plays a key role in our everyday lives – it helps us relate to the world we live in, it supports critical and creative thinking, it strengthens our problem-solving ability and even improves our communication skills. Khanya Okumu, CEO of FLY, enjoys working with numbers and figures, but even more so is her passion for seeing others succeed in the field of mathematics. Fortunately for learners, Khanya is not the only person with such a passion and FLY has 80 maths tutor-volunteers who help young minds conquer the difficulties of the subject.
They devote their time to teaching and mentoring learners at Realogile High School (Johannesburg) as well as the JL Zwane Community Centre (Cape Town) every Saturday-morning during school terms. Their first session was in 2010 with nine tutors and 20 Grade 9-learners in Langa, Cape Town. Currently they provide tutoring for almost 200 learners in Cape Town and Johannesburg.
The 2020-pandemic hit FLY hard and their capacity became an issue during Covid, because it is a 100% volunteer-run organisation. The face-to-face classes had to become remote. FLY was established to be a maths tutoring organisation and the team can begin to look at other mentoring programmes as soon as this foundation is again secured properly. In the short term there are no plans to launch other branches in other cities – the first objective is to settle the organisation to a ‘pre-Covid’ status.
The organisation focuses on excellence, responsibility and accountability as core values – the ideal is that learners should pass a matric that will enable them to enter tertiary education. Some of their learners have already received scholarships for tertiary education, but these are not merely hand-outs, as Khanya explains, “We’ve partnered with a company called Excel at Uni (Pty) Ltd, and they provide mentorship for our learners.
You can imagine that some of our learners are the first in their families to go to tertiary education and that transition from high school is quite tough. Our partnership with them is to help with the basics – you know, how to study when nobody’s watching you; the person that you can go and ask questions to and … they also then provide additional extra lessons.”
A major part of FLY’s budget covers the operational costs of the organisation and the other part covers the costs of the scholarships. Regarding these scholarships, Khanya says that “every single learner that is on a scholarship – we cover their tuition and their boarding if they are in student accommodation. If they are living at home we also give them a stipend to get to and from uni; a textbook allowence is budgeted for and over and above that our partner Excel at Uni provide mentorship for our learners.” One truly hope to see this organisation grow and enable young minds to enter the world of tertiary education – it needs to fly high, so to speak…