“Be My Rafiki”: A Buddy System to enhance non-Anglophone students’ social inclusion

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).



Photo by Alex Munsell on Unsplash


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.

Photo by Cytonn Photography on Unsplash

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.

Made with Padlet


  1.  Data from Student Life Department of the African Leadership Academy, Johannesburg, South Africa
  2. “Diploma Program.” African Leadership Academy,
  3. “How to Have a PERMA-Vacation.” The Psychology of Wellbeing – Musings on the science of holistic wellness… Web. <>.
  4. “The PERMA Model: Your Scientific Theory of Happiness.” Positive Psychology Program – Your One-Stop PP Resource!, 9 Feb. 2018,

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


Share this project
  1. April 26, 2018 by Johnny K

    Awesome project Aicha! Very elaborate and well done! I hope that ALA could adopt this, it would be very helpful to integrate non-anglophone students into the community. Congrats!

    • April 28, 2018 by Aicha.Thiendella.Fall

      Thank you Jonathan❤ I will definitely work with the school to implement it

  2. April 26, 2018 by Mmm

    Great idea you have here. This clearly reflect the efforts you have put into this project. I am sure it will be very helpful for future francophone people. Well done

    • April 28, 2018 by Aicha.Thiendella.Fall

      Thank you Momar. I really hope ot will impact them positively

  3. April 26, 2018 by Kelli

    Great job Aicha! This project is so incredibly thought out and I would love to be apart of such a program. I hope the people in charge of ALA see this and begin your “Be my Rafiki” program!

    • April 28, 2018 by Aicha.Thiendella.Fall

      Thank you for the support Kelli❤ your project is also an amazing one

  4. April 26, 2018 by Alex Martha

    I love the idea you present here.I think ALA should adopt this idea. I would change the future for francophone people. Really good job!

    • April 28, 2018 by Aicha.Thiendella.Fall

      Thank you Alex❤ I will definitely work on it with my school

  5. April 26, 2018 by Irene Marra

    This is awesome. Such a great way to tackle language barrier as well as enhance positive relationships! ❤️

    • April 28, 2018 by Aicha.Thiendella.Fall

      Thank you so much Irene❤❤

  6. April 26, 2018 by Angie

    Amazing job Aicha!!! This is a powerful idea that I believe will be very impactful😊

    • April 28, 2018 by Aicha.Thiendella.Fall

      Thank you for the support Angie❤

  7. April 27, 2018 by Demeke

    Excellent Aicha! This is a commendable and impactful initiative. I love how much thought you have put into this project. Be My Rafiki should indeed be part of what we do here at ALA.

    • April 28, 2018 by Aicha.Thiendella.Fall

      Thank you so much Mr Demeke. I would be glad to implement this

  8. April 27, 2018 by Youssou

    Excellente franchement

    • April 28, 2018 by Aicha.Thiendella.Fall

      Merci bcp

  9. April 28, 2018 by Dave Tait

    Aicha, great initiative. How can we pilot this at ALA? Let me know if you need help.

    • April 28, 2018 by Aicha.Thiendella.Fall

      I wil definitely need help from the EL and Student Life departments. We could pilot next year with the incoming group of non-anglophone students. I am willing to work on it with the school. Thank you so much for the comment.

  10. April 28, 2018 by Dharma Seda González

    Sounds fantastic! How could this be piloted at other schools around the world?

    • April 28, 2018 by Aicha.Thiendella.Fall

      Thank you Dharma❤! I think what is nice aboit this project is that it is quite adaptable to other situations. In other schools it might not be the non-Anglophone students but another group of students who find it hard to socially navigate in a new environment. Things like the survey, the buddy system and the activities could be kept but it might take more or less formalities depending on how sensitive that group is. E.g. students having ADHD, or learning differences, students who just moved to town etc..

  11. April 29, 2018 by Vimbainahse E. Mushayikwa

    Real great project. I think it will work wonders in bridging the gaps and divisions here and also making it a much more inclusive environment. I also think such a project will be very memorable and worthwhile in the eyes of the participants who I am sure will remember this even after ALA. I hope you manage to implement it here and it’s a shame such a program was not already here!

    Best of luck!

    • April 29, 2018 by Aicha.Thiendella.Fall

      Thank you Vimbai for your precious feedback and encouragement. I would dedinitely do my best to implement it

  12. April 29, 2018 by Miza A. Ridzuan

    This is an incredible project. I feel that everything that you’ve said here is very feasible, especially once the school administrators are on it too, but the impact of this “Be My Rafiki” program will be beyond our imagination. I’m hoping that this program would be implemented, and true relationships will be born, and people will earn a more meaningful experience in school. I had a similar program in my elementary and middle school and I loved it, but it would be incredible to see this go into higher grade levels, too.

    • April 30, 2018 by Aicha.Thiendella.Fall

      Thank you so much Miza❤ Your feedback is valuable

  13. April 30, 2018 by Saïda C.

    Un super projet. J’espère qu’il va aboutir.

    • April 30, 2018 by Aicha.Thiendella.Fall

      Merci Sister ❤😁

  14. April 30, 2018 by Pape

    Congratulations Aicha! Awesome and incredible project. The project is very elaborate and is feasible. Well done!

    • April 30, 2018 by Aicha.Thiendella.Fall

      Thank you so much for the comment

  15. May 02, 2018 by Kyla

    What an incredible endeavour from a place of such compassion.

    • May 02, 2018 by Aicha.Thiendella.Fall

      Thank so much Ms Kyla❤❤ It’s encouraging

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