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“Help Our Youth Pass the Examination of Life” – Jonathan Jansen’s Mentorship Challenge

How to Fix South Africa's SchoolsWe Need to ActJonathan Jansen, the author of How to Fix South Africa’s Schools: Lessons from Schools that Work and We Need to Act, has found an interesting and innovative way of engaging with first year students at the University of the Free State, where he is rector and vice-chancellor.

Jansen invites 10 students for breakfast every weekday. He serves a simple breakfast, prepared by his wife, and sits down to speak with them about their experience at university.

David Melvill wrote an article about Jansen’s breakfast’s for BizNews:

He asks them two questions:

What has disappointed you most about my university?
What would you like me to do to make your university better?

Mentorship, as practised in his weekday breakfasts, is something that Jansen regards as essential to helping young people succeed.

In a column for The Times, Jansen says that school children need mentors as much as university students, and that anyone can get involved. His challenge: “More important than end-of-year exams, help our youth pass the examination of life.”

The mentor opens the world to you outside the classroom. He or she brings you into networks that children might never otherwise gain from. This special kind of teacher senses learning opportunities over weekends in places like book talks – for once a child discovers the pleasure of reading, a life can change forever. The mentor speaks well of her students in public places, thereby raising the confidence levels of shy, reticent youth more than any lesson on algebraic equations can ever do.

The mentor is “there” for you, always present, listening and responding, caring and promoting the youth in his charge. The mentor teaches wisdom while the regular teacher conveys knowledge. You follow the mentor and a new world opens up to you.

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