From left Lindelwa Mini, Charmaine Malao & Patricia Mudiayi

Girls make up 63 percent of learners from LEAP Science & Maths Schools, a network of low-fee schools situated in the Western Cape, Limpopo and Gauteng. The network is guided by women in leadership positions, with two of the six schools headed by female principals. Grounded by the belief in developing future leaders, the LEAP model addresses a larger need to empower women through education within their own communities.

Lindelwa Mini (pictured above) Principal at LEAP Science & Maths Schools is a role model, leader and inspiration to her Langa community. Recognised as one of the 2017 M&G Young South Africansis passionate about developing opportunities for success for herself and her learners.

“You can excel academically but if you don’t know who you are and what you stand for you will not succeed. I believe education is being the better version of yourself,” she says. For Mini, being a woman in her community means setting an example of hard work and perseverance. “I am a role model to the kids from Langa township whom I lead. When they see a successful young black woman they know it’s possible for them as well.”

At LEAP Science & Maths Schools, Mini is able to express her ambitions for her community through her work as an educator, administrator, employer and social activist. Within her various roles, Mini remains passionate about finding holistic solutions to the needs of her growing community.

Another inspirational woman leader at LEAP is Patricia Mudiayi (pictured above) – recipient of the 2015 Mkhaya Migrants award administered by the Department of Home Affairs for her contribution to unity. A national from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mudiayi heads Kwesu, a Non-Profit Organisation that assists migrant women in developing social and financial skills.

As a young, pregnant immigrant alone in a new country Mudiayi, with a chemical engineering degree could only find work as a tutor. Faced with limited options, she realised she was not living the life she dreamt of in South Africa, and that she would have to work even harder to succeed.

She supplemented her tutor income by working as an curios trader in Cape Town’s Green Market square and soon built a comfortable life for herself. During this time her passion for teaching and education grew. This led to Mudiayi being welcomed into the LEAP Science & Maths Schools family where she verified her qualifications to pursue teaching before becoming a full-time educator and later, school Principal.

Having risen above difficult circumstances to lead a school, Mudiayi was reminded of her lonely beginning in South Africa. This led her to meet and engage with migrant women from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Republic of Congo, Somalia, Burundi, Angola and Zimbabwe who needed guidance, support and skills to build a successful life in their new country. Out of these conversations Kwesu began. The organisation empowers women financially and spiritually by offering English and computer lessons and teaching skills like sewing and cooking.

LEAP alumnus Charmaine Malao (pictured above) attributes her success to the support she received from her family, community and education. The young, dynamic law graduate is from a family of ten, who all grew up living in one small home in Alexandra, Gauteng. She understands the challenges of growing up in a high need community. “Coming from a township filled with all sorts of connotations is hard for a woman. I never imagined myself as a lawyer or law graduate. I have taverns as neighbours and neighbours playing music as loud as they want, and it’s normal not to complain because it’s not ‘Sandton’,” she says.

While it may not be Sandton, Malao appreciates the challenges and opportunities of living in a multi-cultural community like Alexandra. This is a common thread amongst LEAP students and alumni who are taught to value the link between individual and community success and are expected to practically work towards uplifting one’s community.

“The very same place that taught me all South African languages also exposed me to every temptation and obstacle you can think of that could defeat you. God has his own ways and paths that sometimes we don’t even understand.”

Providing quality holistic education to students from high-need communities, LEAP Science & Maths Schools believes in creating opportunities for emotional growth and academic excellence.

“We cannot describe the joy we feel as custodians of the LEAP philosophy to see women like Lindelwa, Patricia and Charmaine pursue their dreams. We are proud of how far they have all come and it’s wonderful to see how they each inspire their community,” concluded John Gilmour, founder and Executive Director of LEAP Science & Maths Schools.