The African Leadership Academy (ALA) is a high school situated in Johannesburg, South Africa, that seeks to transform Africa into a beautiful and prosperous continent by developing the next generation of African leaders. The Academy’s highly selective Two Year Pre-University Diploma Program is geared at young leaders aged 16-19 from across Africa who have the potential to catalyze positive change on the continent. During their time at ALA, students complete a unique curriculum that includes courses in Entrepreneurial Leadership, African Studies, Writing & Rhetoric, and Cambridge A-Levels. ALA has recruited 127 students in 2016 and 125 in 2017. This year, there is approximately 23% of the student body who is from a non-anglophone country. A support class, English 4 Excellence, is provided by the school to those who speak only a few words of English. However, not every student is eligible for such and those who do not get the opportunity to take that class, still struggle when it comes to academic and social insertion. Here is a video of Marc-Eric Koffi, from Cote d’Ivoire responding to our questions about his own experience.
“Be My Rafiki”
Positive Relationships is the third element of the PERMA model: (P) Positive Emotion; (E) Engagement; (R) Positive Relationships; (M) Meaning; and (A) Accomplishment/Achievement. Having strong relationships gives you support in difficult times. In an interview with Dr Mitch Printein’s about his course on the psychology of popularity, he mentioned that there has been researching that shows that pain centres in our brain become activated when we are at risk of being isolated. This is because, in an evolutionary perspective, isolation would be the worst thing we could do for survival.
Photo by ALAians Media
I believe that non-anglophone students will be able to have a more inclusive environment and easily adapt socially and academically with the help of partners/buddies. The buddy system, called Be my Rafiki (Rafiki means “friend” in Swahili, the most widely spoken language in Africa), will allow non-anglophone students who are not taking the English 4 Excellence support class to be each matched with an English speaking student who volunteered to help. They will be matched with buddies according to their hobbies and interests, assessed with this survey (Feel free to take it).
After pairing up the students, the “Be my Rafiki” program will contain a list of activities they will do as buddies and/or as a group:
- Off-Campus trips: A monthly trip to a specific location in Johannesburg will be planned with as options: Gold-Reef City, Maboneng, Monte Casino, Game reserve, Theatre etc.
- Movie nights/Karaoke nights: Such activities are known for being entertaining and creating strong bonds. Once in two months, the buddies will have a gathering with bonding activities and games (Truth or Dare, Mafia, Trust fall, etc.) to bring them closer.
Photo by Hana Hazeem, ALA Class of 2018
- Gratitude letters/Monthly gift: Gratitude participates in improving relationships. As my classmate, Bailey said it: “When you are grateful for someone or something, you see the meaning in that person or thing. You understand what it or they mean to you.” According to Dr Jeremy Nicholson’s article How Gratitude Influences Loving Behavior, expressing gratitude to your partner encourages positive behaviour and positive relationships. Therefore, the buddies will be asked to monthly write a gratitude letter or gift to their buddies(e.g. Christmas gift, Valentine’s gift etc). They will also be encouraged to express their gratitude every single day through these practices, a list created by Positive Psychology, Spring 2018 class.
The budget shall be provided by the school as the program will be under the Student Life Department. The program will last from September to February, considering that in February, students will be able to navigate more easily on their own. There will also be a trial period of 2 weeks after the buddies have been paired, followed by a feedback survey on the Rafikis to avoid tensions and improve the matching process.
Finally, a contract will be signed at the end of those two weeks to hold students accountable to each other. Please find the contract below:
Contract: I (name) _________________________ want to be matched in a one-to-one friendship and will commit to establishing a true friendship with my Buddy. I agree to contact him/her weekly during the school year. I also agree to attend ‘Be My Rafiki’ meetings and activities and to provide support to my Rafiki socially and academically. I will keep any information released to me about my Rafiki confidential.
- Data from Student Life Department of the African Leadership Academy, Johannesburg, South Africa
- “Diploma Program.” African Leadership Academy, www.africanleadershipacademy.org/programs/diploma/.
- “How to Have a PERMA-Vacation.” The Psychology of Wellbeing – Musings on the science of holistic wellness… Web. <http://psychologyofwellbeing.com/201304/how-to-have-a-perma-vacation.html>.
- “The PERMA Model: Your Scientific Theory of Happiness.” Positive Psychology Program – Your One-Stop PP Resource!, 9 Feb. 2018, positivepsychologyprogram.com/perma-model/#relationships.
Special thanks to Mr Jake Galloway, Marc-Eric Koffi, Salome Maina, Nusura Myonga, Bailey Turner, Positive Psychology Spring 2018 class, Ayanda Ngobeni, Bibiana John, Ms Lauren Gehman