Engineering future leaders: Stories of success from learners

As National Youth Month draws to an end, the Zenex Foundation reflects on its Learner Support Programme, which aimed to empower young people through education. The Foundation shares inspirational stories from learners, to put a face and human experience into the statistics. These are stories of resilience, hard work, passion and discipline, sometimes against great odds. The proud Alumni of the Zenex Foundation Learner Support Programme, are at different stages of their post-school journeys, but continue to draw lessons from their experiences in the Programme as they navigate their post-school trajectory.

The Learner Support Programme, a high school intervention in Maths, Science and English implemented from 2003 - 2016, aimed to increase the number of Black (African, Indian and Coloured) school leavers who qualify for university entrance with a quality pass in Maths, Science and English in the National Senior Certificate (NSC) examination. This would qualify them for entry into university to pursue studies in areas of scarce skills which require these subjects.

The Programme:

  • Identified learners with potential in Maths and Science from disadvantaged backgrounds and facilitated their entry and integration from Grade 10 – 12 in selected independent schools; Grade 8 – 12 in public schools,and re-writing the NSC exams in bridging schools.
  • Provided additional academic support in Maths, Science and English over weekends and school holidays.
  • Offered mentoring support to help learners adjust into their new, more demanding learning environments.
  • Assisted learners wishing to pursue post-school studies to navigate the process of application for studies and funding, through the Tertiary Access Project initiated in 2011.

The Programme was initiated in response to the persistent low learner enrolment and underperformance in critical subjects such as Maths, manifested in the latest NSC statistics which show that, of the 610,178 Grade 12 learners who wrote the NSC exams in 2016, only 2,9% African learners obtained 70% and above in Maths.
The Programme supported a total of 1,615 learners, of which 1,183 achieved quality passes of 60% / Level C and above in Maths, Science and English and 828 were assisted with processes for further studies.  

These are their stories...

From the Inkanyezi Project:

  1. Bahle Bethwell Danisa, Gade 10 – 12, Ogwini Comprehensive High School (2014 – 2016)
  2. Laila Bera, Grade 10 – 12, Ridge Park College (2014 – 2016)
  3. Jonathan Banza, Grade 10 – 12, Effingham Secondary School, 2014 – 2016

From the Zenex Foundation-ISASA M&E Project:

  1. Nonzuzo Dlamini, Grade 10 – 12, Inanda Seminary (2007 – 2009)
  2. Lindokuhle Ngwenya, Grade 10 – 12, Inanda Seminary (2008 – 2010)


My name is Lindokuhle Ngwenya and the journey to realising my potential started when I was elected into the Zenex Foundation–ISASA Maths & English (M&E) Programme in 2008. I was afforded the opportunity to be a learner at Inanda Seminary in KwaZulu-Natal through the Programme.


“There are moments of significance in your life, moments of impact…these moments separate your life into two parts, before and after.” The date was 22 December 2013, and I was getting my weekly dose of Oprah Winfrey’s Master Class. When I heard her say those words, my world stopped for a second or perhaps a minute.

Jonathan Banza

My name is Jonathan Banza and I will soon be attending the prestigious African Leadership Academy (ALA). This institution aims to develop and network the next generation of African leaders. An academy five years prior to this moment, I never thought I will be accepted into, let alone think of applying to.

Laila Bera

Am I wrong for thinking that I could be something for real? This thought plagued my mind as I searched for a cure to rid myself of this infectious disease of doubt. My name is Laila Bera and this is a reflection of my journey down the rabbit hole on a quest of self-discovery.


I’m Bahle Bethwell Danisa, a 19-year-old kid from eMlazi (Folweni) in Durban. I am currently preparing to embark on my BSc in Electrical and Mechanical Engineering studies at the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom.