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LEAD: Profile: Mentorship engrained

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Mentorship, always critical to accounting and audit, is evolving into as much an external as an internal prerogative. As mentorship is engrained in our everyday activities, many CA(SA)s have outreached to their communities as mentors. By Eamonn Ryan

One grassroots project typical of the desire of many CAs(SA) and trainees to assist particularly in areas of education, is the Tariro Foundation. This foundation is an organisation established in January 2014 which aims at the development of young females in the areas of education, entrepreneurship and personal-leadership development. Its work with the first group of 14 girls from Waverly Girls’ High School commenced on 5 March, the start of what will be a three-year pilot mentorship programme.

It commenced with a strong accounting connection, with the team consisting of three aspiring CAs(SA) and one qualified CA(SA). Several of the short-listed beneficiaries of the programme have also shown a keen interest in a career in business and/or accounting. The co-founder and CA(SA) in training, Thandeka Xaba of Investec, explains that the foundation is still very much in an initial phase, with all the time, energy and start-up costs being footed by the managing team. ‘We are hopeful the concept will be successful and capable of being rolled out more widely, with the idea that it will ultimately become a self-sufficient social enterprise and not simply rely on the efforts of the team and donors,’ she says.

The idea originated from Thandeka’s own private activities in tutoring and mentoring Grade 9 girls in Khayelitsha as part of the SHAWCO: SMART initiative while she was studying towards a Business Science (Finance and Accounting) degree at the University of Cape Town. ‘I built a strong relationship with them, and found them very bright but realised that because of their socio-economic circumstances they weren’t aware of the many university, bursary and/or scholarship opportunities available to them (let alone if they qualified for them). This inspired me to source as much information as I could because I knew very well that they could qualify and I wanted to expose them to opportunities for funding early on. That experience made me realise that there was a vast knowledge and resource gap among young students particularly those who come from underprivileged backgrounds – and that something needed to be done. I realised that one successful girl could in turn inspire a whole community and uplift an entire family out of the poverty cycle,’ she says.

Thandeka herself is an Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Fellow, which is a scholarship that funded her university and postgraduate degree and played a large role in helping her develop the idea and inspiration behind the Tariro Foundation.

During her time at UCT, she was the Vice-Project Leader and Curriculum Coordinator for the SMART project, which is run under SHAWCO. ‘It involved planning and coordinating weekly maths and science lessons, as well as the general overseeing of the project,’ she says. Thandeka held a number of other volunteer positions while there, including doubling as the president of SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise) UCT, ‘an international organisation which brings together business leaders, university staff and student entrepreneurs to initiate positive social change through the start-up business projects’, she explains.

THE TEAM

The idea she got was to broaden the level of assistance beyond just tutoring – by bringing in more people and subjects on the curriculum offered – in order that at the end of such a programme the girls would qualify for high-quality bursaries and scholarships as well as entrance into a quality tertiary institutions.

She approached a friend, Sadia Dhorat of Bain Consulting, with the idea, and they approached two like-minded friends, Zakiyyah Bhamjee CA(SA) from PricewaterhouseCoopers and fellow aspiring CA(SA) Tasneem Karodia of Bain Consulting, and jointly with other team members Nyakallo Merafe, Anna-Marie du Plooy, Nondumiso Mbanjwa and Sabeeha Mansoor developed the course structure and curriculum.

Zakiyyah graduated from the University of Pretoria having completed BCom (Hons) with specialisation in Accounting Sciences in November 2011. She passed the SAICA Qualifying Exam in January 2012 as well as the IRBA Public Practice Examination in November 2013, completing her articles at PwC in December 2014 to qualify as a CA(SA) and Registered Public Accountant. She is currently pursuing other interests by attempting a CIMA Islamic Finance qualification and she describes her major outside interest as her involvement in various pro bono work and aid projects.

‘I am passionate about Africa and am making progress towards my role in the growth story that South Africa has to share with the world. Ultimately, our hope is that these girls [being assisted via Tariro] will qualify for pre-existing bursaries and/or scholarships, as well as qualify for entrance into quality tertiary institutions.’

Tasneem is an Associate Consultant at a management consulting firm Bain & Company in the Johannesburg area. Her passion for mentoring young people is also evident in her volunteer work with ‘help2read’ and more recently, the Tariro Foundation.

THE TARIRO PROJECT

Thandeka says: ‘We recently selected our class of 2016 from Waverley Girls’ High School and officially commenced the programme on 5 March. This school was selected because it is in Johannesburg, where we are all based, and has girls predominantly in the low to medium LSM income bands, being mostly from Alexandra, Soweto and Norwood,’ she explains.

Combining the educational and entrepreneurial skills of the managing team, the curriculum will be delivered to the 14 Waverley High girls through workshops run throughout the year on weekends at the school.

‘Our objective is to partner with existing tutoring and mentoring channels and integrate these into our own curriculum. We also want to function as a portal of access to bursary and scholarship schemes towards the end of the three-year programme,’ says Zakiyyah.

‘This is a pilot project. With a desire for a high-level and detailed intervention we did not want to start with too many candidates, although we received an overwhelming response from students and their parents,’ explains Zakiyyah.

THE CURRICULUM

The education module will employ a combination of face-to-face tutoring and web-based learning. They are currently working with a web-based educational company called ReThink Education (founded by Doug Hoernie, who is also an Allan Gray Fellow) to establish a platform for the girls to learn on a mobile app.

Mentorship on entrepreneurship is a focal point of the programme with inspirational talks from successful entrepreneurs, brainstorming sessions on problem-solving and business ideas, as well as practical help on developing business plans. Thandeka says the mentees will not be expected to actually establish a business if they do not want to, ‘but we want to help them establish the mindset of problem solving and identifying business opportunities from a young age’.

The personal-leadership development element will focus on developing confident and self-assured young women through focusing on growing their strengths and developing their personal leadership style.

The co-founders are themselves thinking bigger in terms of means of making the organisation self-sustainable, she says: ‘While the Tariro Foundation is a non-profit organisation, we each have for-profit business ideas that we want to implement in the long run to help sustain the foundation’s need for capital.

‘However, in the interim we are actively seeking private and corporate partnerships and sponsorships,’ adds Thandeka.

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