On Monday and Tuesday, Mpilonhle had the privilege of welcoming Mzukisi Tony Gubesa, Grassroot Soccer Master Coach, to the Umkhanyakude District. Though only a short visit, Tony got a chance to re-connect with all of our peer educators that he helped to train as “Skillz Coaches” at a June workshop in Durban. He also got a chance to offer his continued support and to see for himself the excellent Skillz programme that Mpilonhle and our peer educators are developing. The entire Skillz team was thrilled to see him again, the rest of the Mpilonhle staff was happy to meet him for the first time, and all of us eagerly anticipate his already scheduled return at the end of January (unless we can persuade him to come back even earlier).
I think it is safe to say that for everyone involved, the visit was both productive and enjoyable. It is clear that Tony feels the same affection for Mpilonhle that we feel for him. He not only got a chance to support and personally familiarize himself with our unique implementation of Skillz, but also got a chance to visit one of our mobile health and computer units in action to better understand Mpilonhle’s core services and the other invaluable work that we do. He was genuinely impressed by the quality of our staff and the services they provide. Because we now think of Tony as part of the Mpilonhle family, we made sure he didn’t leave without his own official Mpilonhle shirt to proudly wear around the streets of Cape Town.
During his visit, the life orientation teachers at Mkhaliphi High School made certain that Tony understands how highly they regard Mpilonhle’s Skillz programme by explaining to him their recent decision to provide the local team of Skillz Coaches with their own small office at the school. Their exact words were that they want these peer educators to have “the dignity they deserve” as such valuable new members of the school community. And because it was raining heavily that day, the Coaches had to abandon their prepared activities (which required a lot of space to conduct) but, without missing a beat, re-arranged the chairs and tables in the classroom so they could stay inside and conduct an “unofficial session” with other activities from the Skillz curriculum.
At Silethukukhanya High School, Tony was equally impressed by what he discovered during our impromptu visit to Sfiso Jobe’s house (the team leader for this group of Skillz Coaches). We decided to walk together to Sfiso’s house to retrieve some registrations and surveys that I had neglected to inform him we needed to collect that day. When we arrived, despite the fact that Sfiso had no idea we would be collecting it that day, the stack of over 400 registrations and surveys was already neatly sorted by grade and class, clearly labeled and clipped together. We then noticed that there were only two things posted on the walls of the house (Sfiso is only 21, has very little money and lives alone). The first was a copy of the Skillz class schedules at Silethukukhanya, including the contact information for the life orientation teachers at the school, his team of Skillz Coaches, and the Skillz team at Mpilonhle (myself and Thokozani Hlophe). The second was a hand-written breakdown of the size and gender composition of every class his team was responsible for at the school.
It’s a significant understatement to say that our excellent Skillz Coaches take their roles and responsibilities very seriously. And we know that these and other experiences will mean that when Tony returns to Cape Town, he will continue to be the strong advocate for our programme that he has always been. We wish him a safe journey home.