School @ the Centre of Community

XHUMA: Helping South African Pupils Make Sense of Their Rands

Partners for Possibility, the fast growing intervention into under-resourced schools, this month shared the classrooms of Blue Eagle Secondary with a group of Strategy and International Management Masters’ students from Switzerland.

The students all hail from St Gallen University in Switzerland and they regularly run social projects across the globe under the collective name of XHUMA. XHUMA has run for the past 12 years and this year travelled to Cosmo City in Johannesburg to teach children basic financial literacy. The name of the financial literacy programme, is the SIMagination Challenge.


FINANCIAL LITERACY:Xhuma South Africa’s Facebook group cover art with Gr9 students from Blue Eagle Secondary School


Founded by students at the University of St Gallen in Switzerland, XHUMA is a project run from the Masters in Strategy and International Management Programme. The department runs a broad based social initiatives program they call The SIMagination Challenge which has run successful social projects around the globe for a period of 12 years.

Tasked with the responsibility of making a SIMpact in the township of Cosmo City, the seven students bid farewell to their city of St Gallen and arrived in South Africa to begin the practical work of their XHUMA journey partnering with Partners for Possibility. With a four year XHUMA legacy running and partnering with various South African social initiatives, the group had high expectation of achieving sustainable results at the Blue Eagle Secondary School, teaching Gr9 pupils the basic, but effective tenets of financial literacy. “We have developed a framework that simplifies financial literacy by reimagining the process as a structure being supported by three pillars.” Linus Hoppe said, clarifying the method used.

Upon arrival at the school on Monday 8 February, the XHUMA group facilitated their first session in goal setting, illustrated in the graphical depiction of a structure, they likened goal setting to a roof that requires a foundation and pillars to stand. To begin the course of the 4 session workshop, the XHUMA group handed the pupils a short survey with the purpose of locating their collective understanding of the concept of financial literacy. 



GOAL-SETTING:Jane (left) getting ready to take the Gr9’s through the Time/Money Matrix and a Gr9 pupil (right) expressing his dream to be a qualified electrician


The pupils were then encouraged to explore their ambitions and list their three most important goals.

“The purpose of this session is to introduce the elementary idea of financial literacy in relation to self-fulfilment. Everyone has a goal, ambitions that drive them. This makes the concept relatable and illustrates the importance of financial preparedness,” XHUMA’s Alex Janotte explained, “It is impossible to map out a route to your destination if you don’t know where you are coming from.”

The XHUMA group displayed a matrix they have developed to group dreams by two important variables of time and money as investment, the XHUMA team explained that one should chart one’s dreams on this plane to know how to better prepare themselves for the realisation of their goals. Giving the pupils examples, the XHUMA group occupied themselves at the grouped desks in discussion about what investment each dream would require to be achieved.

“It’s been incredible getting to know the students on a personal level, these kids are so exceptional,” Martina Leodari of the XHUMA team shared, “One pupil in my group expressed that her dream is to become a better person so that she can make her family proud; a dream so seemingly basic, yet incredibly priceless.”

The second session of the workshop had the students looking forward to class. “I hope the teachers can show me how I can make my dreams come true,” one student quipped in before taking her seat. For the Savings leg of the workshop, the pupils were instructed to focus primarily on the dreams that required money and time as an investment. “I want to go to Los Angeles in 5 years,” a pupil shared. “We hope to show you today how a big goal can be less daunting once you break it down into smaller actionable objectives” XHUMA’s Linus Hoppe explained to the pupils. 



EASY AS ABC:Alexander closing in on the ABC Analysis with the Gr9 learners


The students used this example to calculate right down to weekly schedules how much they should save to reach the total cost of their dreams. With the students catching onto the idea of being accountable for reaching their dreams with actionable objectives, they unknowingly accomplished the skill of building a basic financial strategy.

Building onto the Financial Literacy Powerhouse, the XHUMA group introduced the third pillar of finance: coming up with alternative sources of finance and managing your financing strategy effectively.

The XHUMA group used the common example of further academic pursuits in higher education to discuss the issue of financing. Pupils gave insights on the obstacles in financing their academic goals and explored the options that are at their disposal. Bursaries and government study grants were discussed in detail, equipping the students with the necessary information and motivation essential to prepare them to perform at the level required by funders.

As an alternative, the students discussed debt and debt dependency as a warning against failing to create a financial strategy to one’s financially dependent goals. The XHUMA group took to another interactive group discussion with a puzzle game called The Debt Tornado, which demonstrated the downward spiral of committing oneself to debt and in turn giving up financial freedom. The message in this session was to prepare oneself for their future pursuits by all means necessary, through investing the time and effort to create opportunity.

In closing of their Financial Literacy Workshop, the XHUMA group demonstrated how to prioritize items on a budget with focus on degrees of importance using the ABC Analysis tool. The pupils regrouped with a XHUMA assistant at hand to break down the budget items according to the importance to one’s hierarchy of needs. Jane Steffensky, another student of the XHUMA group, went a step further to show the pupils how much they could save if they omitted some of their daily purchased items from their monthly budget, using the example of a can of Coca-Cola. The students were surprised at the opportunity cost of reducing their junk food consumption by half and the example concluded the concept of saving.

When sharing their insights with the Partners for Possibility team and the SMT Chair and SGB of Blue Eagle Secondary School on Wednesday February 10 at the contact session sponsored by NUMSA business leader Khandani Msibi to discuss their programme, the XHUMA group were delighted to confirm the completion of their financial literacy journey with Blue Eagle Secondary School. “We discovered this week how hard it is to stand in front of a class rather than being a student,” Jonathan reflected, the group jointly agreed. The group has committed to making a generous donation of R30 000 to the school for chairs and additional furniture, as well as opening a trust account for the highest achieving matric learner to further their education training in 2020.

The partnership formed between the 2015 XHUMA group and Partners for Possibility proved itself successful in creating beneficial and sustainable solutions to key obstacles in upward social mobility in South Africa.

“What I found particularly interesting about this workshop was the manner in which the sessions with the learners were meticulously planned, that there was an image to represent the idea, group work to encourage participation and a time to reflect with Alex’s famous ‘Take-away Learnings’ closing off each session. The repetition made the learning process easier to grasp for the learners.” Dorcas Dube, Marketing Manager of Partners for Possibility.



SMILE:Members of the Xhuma group Carla (left), Jonathan and Martina (above) posing with a group of newly financially savvy Blue Eagle Gr9 pupils.


As time with the XHUMA group as a partner came to a close, the students gave an overview presentation at the first Partners for Possibility Community of Learning Principals event for 2016 on Thursday 11 February.

The event’s theme of Financial Literacy was inspired by the work done by the group with Blue Eagle Secondary, and gave the group the opportunity to share the learnings of their project with principals from Johannesburg region schools. The team outlined the theoretical framework of their project as well as their findings based on the surveys completed which confirmed that their informative workshop with the learners of Blue Eagle Secondary had a positive impact, posing the conversation of financial literacy with students that had no formal guidance in financial preparedness as a tool to attaining goals.

Partners for Possibility is honoured to have partnered with the 2015 “Xhumites” as their work in one of the partner schools further strengthened the shared core responsibility of putting the school at the centre of community development.

Looking back on their journey, the XHUMA students believed that the project had an equally meaningful impact on them too. Carla Schorpp shared, “The hope with which the pupils of Blue Eagle High School believe in their future dreams despite their current situation deeply moved me. It was a pleasure to work with them! And I truly hope that they have learned as much from me as I have learned from them.”



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