LANGUAGE & Literacy Development - CLASSES




Generally, it is said that the biggest challenges facing education in South Africa are children leaving school without the ability to read, write and do arithmetic. South African teachers do not have the basic pedagogic and content knowledge competencies required to impart the skills needed by our learners. The Thebe Foundation education programme targets areas that are not geographically common or well known to many. We also deal with the hard issues at the heart of foundational education and potentially high in impact.


Thebe’s Language and Numeracy Programme supports a total of 17, 054 learners, 16 schools and 294 teachers in the Nkangala (Siyabuswa) and Gert Sibande Districts (Secunda). It comprises both a language and literacy campaign, as well as a numeracy initiative from Foundation Phase (Grades 0 to 3) to Intermediate Phase (Grades 4 to 7). This approach ensures that a continuum of support is offered to both learners and teachers alike throughout the primary school years.

The Literacy Project, undertaken in partnership with READ Educational Trust, focuses on curriculum coverage, learner progression, teacher progression and resource supply. The project aims to produce motivated learners who can read with meaning, ensure the successful implementation of the curriculum by teachers through effective reading and writing methodologies, and produce literacy champions such as heads of departments or principals who are able to support literacy implementation in their phases or schools.

The Numeracy Project is funded by the Thebe Foundation in partnership with Shell. Maths Centre is the preferred service provider who has carried out this initiative in the last x number of years. The initiative aims to improve maths teachers’ conceptual knowledge and learning ability of the curriculum, improve teaching methodologies, increase parental involvement and encourage learner progression, ownership and accountability.

Supporting schools forms the Thebe Foundation’s bottom line, and we believe that this can be achieved through quality education and support interventions. Our focus lies specifically with improving teachers in the reading, writing and mathematical spheres, as this forms the basis of all educational outcomes. 


The Dr EJ Mabuza Scholarship Fund was established in 2016 in honour of Dr Enos Mabuza, and the critical role he played in the inception of the Founders Legacy Programme together with Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Beyers Naude.

Dr. EJ Mabuza

Dr EJ Mabuza Scholarship Fund Programme

The initiative aims to support financially needy students at universities, thereby contributing to the development of higher education graduates who are confident and proud of their African identity and heritage, academically and socially adept, and equipped with the skills and competencies enabling them to become professionals in their fields. The bursaries cover the expenses of tuition fees, textbooks, residence or accredited accommodation costs, meals and a transport allowance for those students living at home. The Thebe Foundation provides support services at all stages of this programme, to ensure that all recipients are supported in their academic efforts and successfully graduate at the end of their studies.

The ultimate objective of the scholarship is to ensure that the beneficiaries become ambassadors of the programme, remain solidly connected to their communities and contribute to the further advancement of wider society.

Since inception, the Thebe Foundation Trust has invested R5.5m bursaries for deserving students from poor families. A total of 34 bursaries have been awarded to students at the University of Mpumalanga, Sol Plaatje University in the Northern Cape, UCT and Wits, in areas as diverse as quantity surveying, education, the sciences, agriculture, conservation and IT. 

The scholarship programme is funded through the annual BBBEE Skills Development budget of the Thebe Foundation. This is a commitment that is reviewed annually, based on performance and availability of resources. The Thebe Foundation administers the scholarship fund under the guidance of a scholarship committee which reports to the trustees. 

The programme’s scholarship committee is made up of Mokgethi Tshabalala (Chairman and GM of Agroprocessing), Hlobisile Mncwango (Senior Group Accountant), Nelisawa Booi (Executive Manager: People, Brand and Transformation), Lehlohonolo Chabeli (CEO Thebe Foundation Trust), Sizwe Mncwango (CEO Thebe Investment Corporation), Busi Mabuza (daughter of E.J Mabuza) and Joel Dikgole (consultant of Thebe Foundation Trust). The committee meets quarterly, a week before the Thebe Foundation Trust board meeting, and is mandated to oversee the management of the Scholarship fund, and develop and review all policies regarding its administration and awarding of bursaries and scholarships.


The Thebe Foundation as well as the UJ Centre for Entrepreneurship supports an integrated business development model, whereby training is integrated with other initiatives to ensure the provision of balanced support across the entire entrepreneurial system, thereby ensuring optimum success on the part of the participants.

UJ Small Business Enrichment Programme

The Small Business Enrichment Programme (SBEP), an initiative of the Thebe Foundation and the University of Johannesburg Centre for Entrepreneurship, was developed 10 years ago as a premier short-term learning programme designed for start-up business owners. The business strategy turnaround programme targets entrepreneurs who have been in business for a minimum of two years, or possess the appropriate work experience and level of personal development required to succeed in the programme. Since its inception, more than 200 companies have successfully completed and benefited from the initiative.

Tailor-made for different sectors and designed to meet the specific needs of its participants, the programme is typically implemented over a 12-week period. Complementary modules are offered as and when necessary to bolster the programme and improve desired outcomes. Participants attend lectures once a week at the University of Johannesburg’s Soweto campus, and receive NQF Level 5 accreditation at the end of the course. Participants are required to develop business turnaround reports based on strategies and lessons learnt during the programme. These are then presented to a panel of experts for feedback. Attendees also document formal business turnaround strategies to be implemented in their businesses beyond the programme.

The course encompasses a number of focus areas, including:
• Strategies for business growth

• Employer–employee relations

• Regulatory environment for smmes

• Business performance improvements

• Risk management and growing your business with minimum capital

• Marketing management for growth

• It as a business enabler for growth

• Sars tax issues for smmes

• Financial management and costing

• Productivity and quality management systems

2018 Thebe Foundation Involvement Since its inception, the University of Johannesburg’s Small Business Enrichment Programme has proven to be an ideal intervention for upcoming, previously disadvantaged SMMEs. The Thebe Foundation’s enterprise and supplier development framework provides financial and nonfinancial support to the beneficiaries of the programme. This is done to aid and accelerate the development, sustainability and ultimate financial and operational independence of the programme beneficiaries.


In 2018, the recruitment of programme participants was undertaken by the University of Johannesburg. In the first round, a total of 34 candidates were interviewed, of which 20 were selected and sponsored by Thebe. In the second round, a total of 42 candidates were interviewed and another 20 more students selected and sponsored by the UJ Centre for Entrepreneurship. Out of this total of 40 students, 25 were earmarked for the Thebe Foundation.

All 40 students were invited to attend an orientation session at the UJ Soweto campus where the training was undertaken. During this session they were advised on the roll-out of the project and its assessment plans, and introduced to the administration teams from the UJ Centre for Entrepreneurship, Thebe Foundation and Zengwe Advisory, who implement the post-programme mentorship initiative


Although not strategic to the Thebe Foundation itself, we are supporting a number of indirect beneficiaries through the passion, dedication and enthusiasm of our employees. At Thebe we take pride in living our values, and the stories that follow are examples of exactly this – charities and organisations that are receiving personal contributions and a helping hand from some of our caring staff members

Danie van Zyl (DVZ) Amateur Wrestling Club

With a rental of R 900 a month for the hall as well as yearly competition and registration fees, the club relies entirely on donations to survive.

“Most of these kids do not have fathers, and live an incredibly hard life on the streets,” notes Jacques. “Hunger, poverty, abuse and drugs are rife. Wrestling is a cheap and easy way to get them off the streets. It offers a disciplined and safe way to get their frustrations and anger out, and simultaneously get fit and improve their focus. My boys have grown up with many of these kids, and they have touched my families’ life in many special ways.”

Since its inception, the club has produced an impressive 25 provincial champions and 12 South African champions.


Christopher has been unable to travel overseas to compete due to a lack of ID and Unabridged Birth Certificate, but excelled at the recent South African Junior Championships. Darren Dickman won two bronze medals at the Tallinn Open Youth Championships, held in Estonia Russia, in 2018. With nearly 2000 wrestlers at the competition, the Tallinn Open is Europe’s largest wrestling tournament. Only two wrestlers from Central Gauteng were chosen to compete, of which Darren was one. Danie organised a raffle to raise the R 35 000 needed to send Darren overseas, and also gave him R 9000 spending money from his own pocket.

“The first thing Darren did when we arrived in Russia was to buy me a present to say thank you,” says Danie. “When we returned he gave me back R 3000 of his pocket money that he hadn’t spent. I find it incredible that a kid from a poor background has the maturity and honesty to return money, instead of spending it all or keeping it for himself. I don’t know what we are doing, but we are clearly doing something right!”

Daniel Mashinini or Zulu as he is called, is another talented individual with a harrowing story to tell. Originally from the Vryheid area, Zulu’s father was run down by a drunk. Zulu lives with his mother and brother in a shack in Newlands, and the family survives on Zulu’s mother’s domestic worker’s income of only R 3000 per month. Zulu has won numerous medals at SA Champs over the years. Jacques is currently in the process of assisting Zulu in securing loans and funding for his university studies.

The story of Spamandla Mammotsta and how he acquired his nickname, perhaps epitomises the close bond that Danie has established with his kids over the years. “When Willie arrived to train one day out of the blue, he couldn’t speak English or Afrikaans. We didn’t even know his name and we couldn’t understand him, so we just called him Willie. The name has stuck to this day, and even his own mother calls him that now!”

DVZ is now bursting at the seams with 27 new members this year alone. Both Jacques and Danie agree that a new training space is needed – one they can call their own, where their equipment doesn’t have to packed away after each training session, and one which is big enough to host fixtures.

“These kids have made something of themselves and their lives despite the most challenging of circumstances,” adds Jacques. “From disadvantaged young kids to community leaders – it just goes to show what dreaming big can do.”


Through its interactions with the young tenants residing at Thebe Property Asset Management’s (TPAM – a member company of Thebe Group) student accommodation in Bertrams, inner-city Johannesburg, the organisation quickly realised that tuition fees and accommodation infrastructure were not the only challenges the students faced. The ability to afford healthy food, fresh fruit, vegetables and nourishing meals was a major challenge, and one that directly impaired the learning process.

In November 2018, TPAM took it upon themselves to address the need for healthy meals, approaching Thebe’s Group Companies and other external organisations for support and CSI spend. 

The organisation aims to support its student tenants, enabling them to focus on their studies without having to worry about what to eat.

Many of the students are not yet employed, have low or zero income and depend on their bursaries or families for support. TPAM helps to provide a home-away-from-home environment for them, ultimately benefiting their studies.

As a direct result of their commitment to giving back, on November 23 2018 Grow Fresh Produce Agent (PTY) Ltd (a member company of Thebe Group led by Mokgethi Tshabalala), distributed fruit valued at R7,020 to 223 tenants residing at TPAM’s student accommodation. Since then, the company has donated fruit in May and June 2019, and Pride Milling Co has come on board and donated nearly 450 bags of maize meal in 2019 alone.

TPAM aims to grow the initiative in 2019 and recently distributions have been delivered monthly on midmonth. Earlier deliveries are made when there are expected supplier delays or prior to student holidays.

Looking ahead, the Thebe Foundation wishes to explore the feasibility of taking over the distribution process, thereby giving credits for donations from Grow directly and passing it on to the deserving students through TPAM. This will be achieved through a partnership deal entered into between the Foundation and TPAM. This initiative aligns with the Foundation’s strategy of entering a sector slowly, and allowing the organisation to learn as it grows into future investors benefitting our communities.

The Foundation will in due course issue a Section 18A certificate to TPAM (Grow/Pride) Fresh Produce in recognition of the food donation made


The Thebe ya Mosadi initiative was started by Thebe Investment Corporation as a drive to inspire and support the empowerment of women. Conceptualised by then group FD Dineo Molefe, the campaign initially began as an annual Women’s Day lunch to celebrate the women of Thebe and its partners. The current custodian of Thebe ya Mosadi, Ms Refiloe Nkadimeng, was instrumental in setting up a partnership with the Imbumba Foundation in 2014, in support of their Caring4Girls programme. Caring4Girls is an extension of the greater Thebe ya Mosadi vision to empower women of all ages and spheres, by providing free sanitary towels to young girls who do not have access to them.

According to Thebe’s Lineo Letele, the initiative’s primary objective is to keep young girls in school. “Female learners can miss up to 50 days of schooling in a year due to a lack of sanitary towels while menstruating. As Thebe ya Mosadi we want to empower women from a young age by increasing their presence in school, and ultimately enhancing their academic performance,” she explains.

A 2018 study by the Stellenbosch University (SU) Law Clinic found that about 30% of girls in South Africa do not attend school when they are menstruating because they cannot afford sanitary products. This is especially true for girls in rural areas where resources are not readily available, and food for the household takes precedence over sanitary products. The harsh reality is that disposable sanitary products are prohibitively unaffordable for many girls and women, making it difficult to maintain good menstrual hygiene and often leading to health and wellness issues.

Since its humble beginnings, the initiative has evolved to become a regular donation drive, with sanitary towels collected on a monthly basis through a variety of means. Boxes are available throughout Thebe’s group company offices to enable physical donations, pledge forms are sent out monthly to all employees, staff members can setup a salary deduction to contribute a monthly amount, and donations are also encouraged at all of Thebe’s womenfocused events. As a result, a four-month supply of sanitary pads is now regularly distributed to Grade 8 to 12 learners of a school that Thebe has chosen to partner with. This depends on factors such as affordability and the number of girls versus estimated collections. In 2018, the beneficiary was Diepdale Secondary School in Soweto.

Thebe has started combining its sanitary towel drop-offs with a career fair in order to include the boys of the school as well. “We believe that it is important not to isolate our


LANGUAGE & Literacy Development - LEARNERS