Meet Rinae Sikhwari, a 26-year-old young woman from Tshikwarani Village in South Africa. She currently resides in Polokwane finishing off her BCom Economics and Business Management from UNISA whilst working at New Leaders Foundation.
She is a fan of reading African literature books, watching series, traveling and discovering new places. Her favorite pastimes include going to food markets, organizing activities for the children in her home church, as well as watching TED Talks and writing.
Rinae describes herself as a change driver and a learner at heart. She is an advocate for providing quality education, especially for children in disadvantaged communities.
Education has always been one of Rinae`s biggest passions and she strives to gain a stronger understanding of the complexities, challenges, and milestones of the South African Education System.
Part of this is to not only be a solutions bringer but also a change agent to see the education system transformed to cater to the needs of all the children across the country.
The South African Education Government spends 6.4% of its GDP on education, however, performance levels are lower than many other countries in the region. Not all children have access to the same quality of education, a legacy left behind by the apartheid government.
Rinae is a consultant at New Leaders Foundation, a non- profit organization that is committed to transforming South African Education. The Organisation founded the Data Driven Districts Dashboard Programme, an approachable, highly intuitive dashboard that displays appropriate education-related information to education officials at all levels in the South African Schooling system.
She emphasizes the importance of data – “Having accurate data ensures that informed decisions are being made, data determines all the decisions and interventions that need to be undertaken.”
Her work involves a lot of interaction with stakeholders from the department of education in driving data-driven conversations and decisions. Engagement with these stakeholders is based on data attained from schools through the South African School Management System.
“I’ve learned to understand how essential it is to have people skills and managing working relations with officials of different levels and rankings”. Her work ranges from assisting Department of Education officials from district directors to curriculum advisors and school principals attain data that will assist them to make informed decisions.Her work also takes her into the field where she can see firsthand how the policies of the Department of Education affect local communities.
“Working in the field has offered me the context to understand the data we extract from schools on a daily basis.” This has brought visibility of complexities of the department and an understanding of the massive gaps and inequalities in the education sector.
Central to her beliefs is the importance of advocating for the education of young women especially those that are growing up in areas where they are faced with so many socio-economic issues, who face so many challenges and a lot of the times education becomes a pillar and an enabler for them to defy the odds against them.
Her own upbringing in a rural village made her understand that it is through education that a woman becomes independent and attains opportunities.
“I am still such a firm believer that not only does education enable one to critically think and analyse but also education gives one the opportunity to be inquisitive, seek to explore and know more and the more you can do better, a learned/well-read/educated woman is able to challenge the status quo, I believe being educated gives one option and looking at how marginalized women are in society particularly black women it is imperative and essential for women to be educated.”
Rinae established a reading club in the township of Seshego in 2015 for children aged between 4-14 years old, currently, the club has over 50 children and has strong support from the parents.
She describes the reading club as a platform for children to learn to read and write for enjoyment, it’s a space in which children learn mathematical, social and literacy skills.
“I’ve just observed how children enjoy our sessions and most of them have become avid readers, I love how they speak their minds and express their opinions that is actually what’s important for me.”
Rinae has always wanted to do work that has a meaning to her and her development as someone aspiring to be a change driver. What does this mean? Being a change driver means doing more to better her community whether it be through mentoring and tutoring or supporting community development initiatives started by her peers or young people from her village.
It also means giving a voice and a platform to those who need the change most- raising awareness about initiatives and shinning the spotlight on the developments in the community.
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