The iHub Africa team is moving well into delivering the second “phase” of the six-phase program which kicked off April 22nd. We’ve had a few students drop off the program at the end of phase one and began the phase with 52 students continuing from the original 56 who started in March.  Attrition continues to be a tough reality that we face and we’re always working hard to understand the “why’s” behind it better.  It’s hard to see a student with so much potential walk away from a life-changing opportunity to learn new skills and be positioned for a great digital economy job that will access income they never dreamed of earning and pivot the trajectory of themselves and their family.  We’ll unpack that challenge a little more further into this post.

Suffice to say, the 52 students that have met the grades standards for the digital and soft skills streams (75% to pass) are full of personality, energy and passion to learn as can be seen in one of the recent snapshots of the cohort below:


On March 1st, Sbu Ncala our Managing Director (photo left), passed his one-year milestone leading both the Learning Academy and the Agency departments of the iHub.  As a Board we are very pleased with Sbu’s performance in his role and we recently extended his contract for another three years.  He continues to build and develop a capable and committed team, earn their trust, and deliver to our overall strategic goals for the organization.

Part of growing his team to meet the needs of training and caring for over 50 students (up 33% from last years’ cohort numbers), was to seek out and hire a Student Support stream lead.  This is a role we’ve been trying to cover for with other team members filling in here and there but never properly filled with a full-time person since designing it into our approach back in 2021.  After a lengthy search, Sbu was pleased to announce the appointment of Zanele Baloyi to the role beginning in March.   Zanele is a graduate of the University of Johannesburg with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work.  You can see her in the featured photo of this post above in her graduation regalia and is in the spotlight for this iHub update post.

We believe the Student Support stream is a unique and defining offering that sets iHub Africa’s learning program apart from others we’re aware of in the region.  Student Support combines one-on-one psychosocial support, coaching and mentoring, monitoring and evaluation and also oversees our student alumni for our post-grads.  It provides an integrated offering that helps our students move through the transformative job readiness journey of acquiring the self-mastery and soft skills they will need, while at the same time dealing with and moving beyond the painful and traumatic experiences of their past in order to thrive and contribute in social settings…. the same settings which once would have been triggers to bring on stress-related disorders and anti-social behaviors.

Zanele seen leading discussions during soft skills training

We’ve designed Soft Skills as a key learning stream alongside the Digital Skills training as its well-known that to be successful in today’s job marketplace, one needs to work collaboratively in social settings – where self-mastery, communication, pulling your weight as a team member, dealing with conflict, competition and problem solving are the “table stakes” of being successful in addition to being great at the technical elements of delivering outcomes of one’s role.

Nearly all our students arrive at the program from backgrounds where they experienced trauma and compromising family structures.  Recognizing this, we’re leveraging Zanele’s training and qualifications to lead and further design the support structures of our Student Support offering.  Through one-on-one assessments with each student, Zanele recently compiled some statistics of the dominant themes underneath the compromised family structures students come from or are now living in.  One can see the results of her analysis in the Family Structure chart below:

The statistics above speak for themselves, and it is noteworthy that 91% of the cohort come from single-parent or no-parent households.  Some of the emerging themes Zanele has also encountered in her student one-on-ones include grief, physical/sexual/emotional abuse, addiction, complex family dynamics, mental health issues such as anxiety, hopelessness, and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as significant identity-related issues.

Some regular readers of my posts will remember the HFI-sponsored Trauma-informed Counselling Training (TCT) team from Canada that visited the iHub exactly one year ago and spent three days training the team in how to recognize symptoms of post traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) and providing them a toolkit of resources to help navigate, process and heal from them.  It’s wonderful to now have a fully-qualified social worker on staff who can leverage this training and carry the staff to a new level of capability in supporting our students!  Zanele has also begin seeing an external psychologist monthly to help her manage the student caseload and plan for risk mitigation approaches for high-risk students.

Zanele recently attended a conference put on by the Bertha Centre for Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative (REPSSI), which focused on recognizing trauma and it’s impact on young people like our students.  Here’s a couple photos of Zanele attending the conference as well as a slide that outlines similar themes of recognizing trauma and how to provide a caring and safe environment for students.

Zanele (on right) with conference host

Slide from a workshop during the conference highlighting Trauma-informed Care

I look forward to shining the spotlight on other new additions to the iHub team in my future updates.  Liz Skosana, pictured below continues to be a pivotal team member leading the training program and now has help from her full time Program Coordinator, Nadia Mambika and two new Interns: Boitshoko & Luyanda (for a total of four Interns) that take on all the assignment marking and feedback loop of grades and performance back to students.

R to L: Liz, Boitshoko, Luyanda, Nthabi, Siphiwe, Nadia and Thendo [Hub Manager]

L to R: Thendo [out of photo], Nadia, Siphiwe, Nthabi, Luyanda, and Boitshoko

To round out this update and switching the theme to Coaching, I’ve put my hand up to be an iHub student Coach-Mentor for the fourth year in a row and was assigned by the team a wonderful young lady named Noluthando Zondo (goes by “Thando”).  Here is Thando’s head shot below as captured by the iHub Comms team:

Noluthando (Thando) Zondo

We had our first coaching session on April 23rd and these will continue every two weeks through the end of November.  One hour sessions happen over Zoom video calls remotely, and I look forward to finally meeting her in person when I attend the iHub graduation again in Johannesburg this coming December, Lord willing.   Thando is a very articulate and intelligent 31 year old, single and recently moved back in to live with her step-mom while attending iHub.  She’s previously attained a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations and Affairs from the University of KwaZulu-Natal.  It was interesting to begin learning her story as to why she hasn’t found work in her field of study and it brings me back full circle as to why students find themselves at the iHub – when life in South Africa brings significant challenges causing ones dreams and plans to be derailed.  Even so, I see tremendous promise and capability in Thando and I look forward to becoming a trusted Coach Mentor and a small part of her personal transformation and readiness journey, cheering her on in the months ahead.

if you’d like to learn more about Thando, please either click on her LinkedIn profile picture below or click HERE.

Until next time, thank you so much for your continued support and prayers for wisdom and impact as I walk out my volunteer Executive Advisor roles here in Cape Town, South Africa.