Connecting former students to their alma mater to make a difference

According to the organisation’s founder and executive director Dr Bheka Makhathini (far right), the programme began when Makhathini wanted to honour the legacy of his grandfather.

According to the organisation’s founder and executive director Dr Bheka Makhathini (far right), the programme began when Makhathini wanted to honour the legacy of his grandfather.

Imagine knowing that a sports star, minister or celebrity sat at the same desk, looking at the same chalkboard and heard the same lesson?

AlumnusOnline — a free online platform that aims to accelerate the advancement of South African schools — wants to reconnect former students and their old schools.

According to the organisation’s founder and executive director Dr Bheka Makhathini, the programme began when Makhathini wanted to honour the legacy of his grandfather — a teacher who had taught in many of the schools around Mfume in southern KwaZulu-Natal — by building a library in his name at the school he had taught.

But Makhathini realised that he could not undertake this journey alone, so began recruiting former classmates to help him with this journey. He learnt there are several other schools that could benefit from a library, science and IT lab, and sports fields.

A trained teacher and veteran of the education department, Makhathini has spent the last four years to make AlumnusOnline a reality.

With support from Bryte Insurance, Strauss Daly, Dimension Data, Internet Solutions and SoluGrowth, the organisation hopes to encourage former students to register on AlumnusOnline and to start helping their former schools.

“Everyone went to school somewhere. They can become guides, mentors, role models,” said Makhathini.

The online platform is a not-for-profit, and Makhathini hopes that it will gain support from corporates hoping to fulfill their BBB-E profile. AlumnusOnline offers corporates the opportunity to fulfil their skills development by putting money towards schools.

Makhathini said that AlumnusOnline can help corporates to identify schools they can donate too.

The department of basic education has been invited to join the programme too, however Makhathini does not want the department to “hijack” the programmes operations.

“We know that most of the fiscus goes to education. We thought there could be an avenue that hasn’t been tapped yet,” said Makhathini.

Gemma Ritchie

Gemma Ritchie

Gemma Ritchie works in the Mail & Guardian's online department. She majored in English Literature at a small liberal arts college in the USA.  Read more from Gemma Ritchie

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