Education is key to a better life – Cala whizz, Lilitha Dlaku

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For Engen Maths and Science School learner, Lilitha Dlaku education is key to helping uplift and improve the lives of his family.

Lilitha grew up in Cofimvaba Qitsi, before moving to Cala where he lived with his grandparents while he completed his schooling at Cala Village Secondary School, supplemented by classes at the Engen Maths and Science School located in the same Eastern Cape village.

His mother is a single parent who moved to Johannesburg to try and find work but is currently unemployed.

Guided by the proverb “‘if it is to be, it is up to me and through hope I survive”, Lilitha’s focus on his studies paid off handsomely after he bagged four distinctions in matric, enough to secure him a place to study a Bachelor of Science at Fort Hare University in 2023.

His advice for the class of 2023 is to prioritise and sacrifice a lot of time towards schoolwork.

Lilitha says attending the Engen Maths and Science School from grade 10-12 every Saturday at Cala Senior Secondary School was his salvation, especially if there was a topic that he did not wholly comprehend.

“I always attended Engen Maths and Science School lessons because every class was worth it.

“You get exposure to different teachers who are very knowledgeable and extremely helpful, and they taught me how to answer complicated questions.

“The programme also offers meals for learners in need which was a big help for me. 

“I also enjoyed meeting other learners from different schools which was advantageous as this enabled us to share information,” he adds.

The Engen Maths and Science Schools have run for over 35 years, and offer underprivileged grade 10-12 learners free supplementary Maths, Science and English tuition on Saturdays at ten locations across South Africa.

Engen’s manager of Transformation and Stakeholder Engagement, Dr James Nyawera explains that the EMSS programme focuses specifically on providing extra tuition in “gateway” subjects such as mathematics and science.

“These subjects are considered critical in addressing the country’s technical and engineering skills shortage as well as spurring economic growth and development,” says Nyawera.

“The EMSS programme seeks to harness the potential of talented young people in difficult circumstances and to also contribute to the pool of scarce skills in the country,” he adds.

The EMSS programme’s crucial role and relevance was highlighted after recent statistics from the Department of Basic Education (DBE) indicated that more learners are opting to write maths literacy, which increased by 108 642 learners between 2020 and 2022 compared to pure maths, which only increased by 36 419 learners over that time. 

Pupils who passed pure math also dipped from 57.6% in 2021 to 55% in 2022.

Engen will host a series of awards ceremonies in February at the various EMSS centres across South Africa where the programme’s Grade 10-12 learners will be honoured, and the top achievers named.

These centres include Cape Town (classes are held at Belgravia and Manzombotho High), Port Elizabeth, East London, Cala and Johannesburg, and in KwaZulu-Natal where classes sit at Fairvale High School, Ganges High School, Hillview High School and Umlazi Commercial High School.

“Starting off in the late 1980’s as Engen Saturday Schools, EMSS remains central to Engen’s efforts to contribute to the growth and transformation of South Africa,” continues Nyawera.

“The programme has worked tirelessly to help transform young underprivileged people’s lives, with a focus of creating a diverse and vibrant workforce.”

Engen is incredibly proud of Lilitha and all EMSS learners who completed matric in 2022, often despite extremely trying circumstances.

As a company, Engen champions the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including SDG 4 – Quality Education, which aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

“Engen is keenly aware that access to quality education and gender equality is everybody’s business, and that it owes it to its employees, customers, and broader society to make every effort to drive positive change,” says Khalid Latiff, Engen’s General Manager: Corporate Strategy and Communications.

“It is Engen’s ultimate reward to help set talented people up to pursue stimulating careers that won’t only benefit them personally, but also their families and the broader economy of South Africa,” concludes Latiff.