Since its modest beginnings with 20 students in 2010 in the township of Imizamo Yethu in Hout Bay, Cape Town, during the FIFA Soccer World Cup, Lalela – meaning “to listen” in Zulu – has changed the lives and futures of thousands of school children in Southern Africa. This non-profit organisation was founded with the mission of providing educational arts for at-risk youth to spark creative thinking and awaken the entrepreneurial spirit.
Over the past decade Lalela has partnered with low-fee or no-fee schools and other youth development organisations to host workshops every day after school in the hours when children are most vulnerable to abuse of every kind. From its humble Hout Bay origins, Lalela expanded its programme to other communities and partner schools across the Western Cape as well as in Johannesburg and KwaZulu-Natal, and beyond our country’s borders to Zimbabwe and Uganda. Through its life-changing arts curriculum, Lalela’s team of facilitators has engaged with up to 4 000 learners every week.
Amidst the global realities of COVID-19 and the immense current educational challenges faced in particular by underprivileged communities and their schools in South Africa, the organisation launched its distance-learning programme, Lalela Virtual, in order to continue making a positive impact on the lives of its learners.
Initially launched as a short virtual programme in the March 2020 school holidays as the lockdown was enforced, it soon became apparent that a longer-term solution was required. Surveys conducted by Lalela showed greater access to smartphones than to computers in the learners’ households, with most learners already using WhatsApp. The result is an innovative virtual distance-learning program that South African learners can participate in from home via WhatsApp Classrooms hosted by Lalela’s facilitation team.
Firdous Hendricks, Senior Programme Manager at Lalela, states: “Lalela Virtual brings the Lalela model of educational arts into learners’ homes, allowing them to develop creative and critical thinking, and to build self-confidence. It helps to keep young children safely occupied in their homes instead of on the streets where they are most vulnerable, especially during lockdown.”
She adds that this virtual learning programme offers learners an essential form of psycho-social support, providing them with a safe space where they can release stress and anxiety. Importantly, the programme supports the CAPS curriculum – particularly in creative arts, languages and life orientation – which is essential considering the current challenges for children.
Leigh Robertson, Executive Director of Lalela, adds: “Lalela Virtual as a practical educational concept in the midst of a desperate situation has already evolved successfully with so much further potential to reach and educate less-privileged children, and to spark their creative thinking and future potential. We are immensely grateful for our existing corporate and individual donors and further appeal for financial support wherever possible.”
Lalela’s proud track-record
Had 2020 been an ordinary year, Lalela would have celebrated its 10th anniversary as the largest arts-education non-profit organisation in Southern Africa. While it has grown considerably over the past decade, the success of Lalela’s programme is best noted in the impact it has had on the children who have benefited from its life-changing arts curriculum.
The learners in this programme start from as early as age six and continue their journey with Lalela all the way to grade 12. Most of the children who started at Lalela 10 years ago have completed high school while many have obtained tertiary education qualifications. Furthermore, a signific number have succeeded in manifesting their dreams into noteworthy careers and successful and meaningful life paths, in so many ways due to the transformative power of the arts.
Some of the organisation’s milestones include the opening of Lalela’s Centre of Arts and Innovation in Maboneng, Gauteng, in 2015, and 2018, the launch of its programme at Disa Primary School in Bonteheuwel, a Cape Flats community ravaged by violence and gangsterism. The latter year also saw the launch of Lalela’s programme at Zeitz MOCAA in partnership with this landmark museum, bringing arts education – and exposure to contemporary African art – to children living in the inner city of Cape Town. In 2019, Lalela launched a programme in partnership with the Bertha Foundation at Boschendal in the Cape Winelands. Lalela’s new programme at Philippi Village in partnership with the Bertha Foundation is expected to be launched by October 2020.
While Lalela primarily focuses on visual arts, a Lalela Leadership programme was introduced in 2012 and a Female Empowerment programme in 2015.
The Lalela Scarf*
Another Lalela initiative is The Lalela Scarf, which was conceived as a means of providing funding to the arts education programme. This project has grown into a stand-alone luxury brand in its own right and enjoys membership of the prestigious Positive Luxury Brand, which includes other top-tier brands such as the celebrated Louis Vuitton.
How to become part of Lalela’s life-changing initiatives
Funding by individuals, businesses, trusts and institutions has increasingly become vital for Lalela to continue with its impactful initiatives, and the organisation is appealing for financial support. One such way is through Lalela’s Classroom Campaign (lalela.org), by which sponsorship of R30 000 supports one Lalela class for one year to keep changing lives forever.
However, Lalela is also appealing for donations of art materials (oil pastels and pencil crayons), funds for data purchases, and used mobile smartphones (with chargers) so that more students can participate in the ongoing Lalela Virtual programme.
“Our curriculum has been built at the intersection of arts education, academic achievement and critical life skills. By activating what we call ‘whole brain thinking’ in the learners in our programme and developing their creative potential, we seek to empower these youths to design a more certain future for themselves. The learners who have come through our programme have all become positive role models among their peers and in their communities. We see our role as providing a hand up, not a hand out. We believe this is what South Africa urgently needs now,” concludes Leigh Robertson.
For more information about Lalela and Lalela Virtual, please contact Leigh Robertson (Executive Director) at firstname.lastname@example.org or Firdous Hendricks (Senior Programme Manager) at email@example.com or Oliver Nurock (Relationship Manager) at firstname.lastname@example.org
Website: www.lalela.org; Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lalelavirtual/; Instagram: @lalelaproject