South Africans face some of the toughest challenges in the world, especially youth in developing communities. We've seen the headlines and we've visited the communities in need. We know there are schools without books, desks and chairs, windows, and some even without walls, but still there rises a number of academic stars who commit their hearts and souls to journeys that seem so different from what many others in their shoes will walk. We believe that this is because there are two schools of thought about the experience we call 'Matric'.
One of these, we believe to be the dominant way of thinking, is that Matric can be the difference between life and death. All of the opportunities and potential of a human being are squeezed into a 17 or 18 year old's ability to pass a series of academic tests that involve theories and methodologies not always taught in a language or level that they understand, by people who may not even understand these things themselves. Does that really seem fair? We push our children to work so hard to get the best results in Matric because our system awards academic points which either place them in tertiary education, or don't, and govern whether or not funding for this will be available - do we even understand what kind of pressure we add to their shoulders in that tertiary environment?
I have found that the problem with this is that we're emphasising our children's outputs, as a reflection of their potential, and we don't celebrate their learning journey or the soft skills they acquire along the way. I've personally been exposed to this kind of thinking, and I know it damaged me until I was exposed to the second school of thought by my parents.
The second school of thought is to not just value the test results, but to value the journey of achieving them. My mother always saw my full potential was to achieve in the top three academic positions in my classroom and even though I disagreed with her methods, she ensured that my work ethic brought out my full potential. I remember one of my greatest frustrations being to ask the definition of a word - my mother never helped me. She pointed me to the children's dictionary every single time, with the exception being when it didn't have the word I was looking for. That's the only time one would find my mother sympathising enough to add in the word from her dictionary into mine, but she still didn't tell me what it meant.
My father, on the other hand, celebrated my Cs and Ds to my bewilderment. One day, I asked him why he was so happy I got a C for my Physics Test in high school, and got the reply, "Because you worked and studied really hard for it and I think it was your best effort. As long as the mark is a reflection of your 100% effort, I'll be happy. You can't give more than your very best." He introduced me to an entirely different way of thinking about my education, and how blessed I was to receive it in an environment where my teachers had the same vision as he and my mum did: to shape me into a person who could make a positive difference in the world, using not just what I learned, but how I learned it.
I can't even begin to express the importance that teachers have in the development of both hard skills and soft skills among youth today. Teachers are second parents, and have the responsibility and opportunity to make the learning journey as thrilling and gripping as possible, so that students don't just see the need to get good marks, but to actually understand how things work and embrace the content they engage with. It's difficult to do this without desks, chairs, windows, walls and textbooks - some of our country's most pressing challenges. Not being able to achieve top marks in Matric is not 100% in the control of students alone, and that's why the second school of thought is what drives us at CAFB.
To train with us and learn the skills of fashion modelling does not require a matric certificate. It requires vision, ambition and the steadfast resolve to want to make the most of every incoming opportunity. A piece of paper doesn't always resemble these things, and if you think we're lying, you might want to read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. CAFB is a home to the dreamers, an environment that encourages the believers and a family to everyone who can just belong somewhere without being judged on matric results.
When Matric results release this year, remember that we're here. We'll be here to celebrate your achievements and to help you find another way forward if the results don't meet your expectations. The world deserves the greatness you're holding inside you, and you deserve to see the positive impact that your life can make on our society.