SA Youth Leading The Charge In The ‘Online Learning’ Space


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Every young person has the potential to be a great leader - they just require the right opportunities and support in order to reflect the holy grail of human qualities. At UCT Online High School, their Leadership Squad embodies this exact sentiment. In an online learning environment, mentoring learners is crucial for their success and further development, whether it is from teachers or fellow learners. 


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UCT Online High Schools’ Leadership Squad is a select group of grade 11 and Matric learners whose role is to model behaviour, represent the online school to other young learners, run community events, learner portfolios within the school, and the wide variety of virtual clubs that are on offer to them and their fellow classmates. 

The intention for these learner led portfolios, is to showcase learner voices - developing their passions, leadership styles and ideas for creating additional spaces of belonging, inclusion and community within an online learning modality.

UCT Online High School believes that their leadership squad will serve as mentors and ambassadors not only for their school, but for adolescents in general. All learner leaders have to complete the Digital Citizenship Learners licence as part of their commitment to being advocates for online safety. The learner-led portfolios, for example, are: the Matric End of Year Celebration, Academic Support, Assemblies, LQBTQIA + groups, involvement in the Well-Being Waves podcast series, as well as a variety of Virtual Clubs. 

The Leadership Squad runs events for their respective grades throughout their school term. The events can range from games’ days, to ‘Study With Me Sessions’, to tips for thriving in an online learning environment for example. The events are run by the Leadership Squad but overseen by their respective Staff Champions.

The Leadership Squads’ responsibilities are divided between grades 8-12 and each grade requires at least one Staff Champion from either Faculty or Student Success. The role of the staff champions are to be the staff liaison with the Leadership Squad, ensure that the Leadership Squad is working in alignment with the values of UCT Online High School, support the Leadership Squad in running successful interactions and events, and support the Leadership Squad in setting targets and goals, and reaching their termly and annual goals.

They also develop a squad contract and values list that members of the Leadership Squad commit to and own during their time, and also develop a working and actionable definition-understanding of their respective portfolios, namely events and mentorship.

Leadership Squad members can run Learner-Led Virtual Clubs on topics approved by the Head of Well-Being & Engagement staff team. These Virtual Clubs must be supported by at least one staff member and can be run based on hobbies, interests or skills that Leadership Squad members have, and will run within the official Virtual Clubs program. 

Learners can apply to join the Matric Leadership Squad in term 3 of their Grade 11 year. Learners need to apply by writing a letter of application, submitting a motivating video, and getting a letter of recommendation from an adult in their personal lives. The Leadership Champions and the Head of School then select applicants for interviews, conducted by Staff Champions. Learners who are successful in the interview process are then added to the Matric Leadership Squad. 

Sharing some of their personal experiences, UCT Online High School learners detail how they are providing motivation and guidance to their learner body of over 4,000 learners:

Lethabo Mogakane (17) has been enrolled at UCT Online High School for almost two years now. 

Why did you apply to be part of the Leadership Squad? I wanted to help create a safe space for learners at UCT OHS because I know how lonely it can be. I wanted learners to realise that there’s a community ready to meet them and create wonderful moments. I also joined to be an intermediary between the school and the learners, to help address some of the challenges and concerns that we/they have regarding the school system.

What’s expected of you as a member of the Leadership Squad?

We’re expected to help build a community among the learners and to help create a sense of unity for marginalised individuals, but most importantly, to speak up for learners who aren’t confident about expressing themselves and being a voice for the voiceless.

What events does the Leadership Squad run?

We run the school virtual clubs, the school assembly, welcome events for school grades and the learnership squad-led meeting with learners.

Nils van der Merwe (17) is currently in his second year at UCT Online High School.

Why do you think it’s important to have this type of leadership initiative at UCT OHS?

There’s a quote from American novelist Jennifer Lynn Barnes: “Without order, there is chaos.” I believe that if there’s authority and guidelines, it puts a constructive structure in place in the learning  environment. I really like the idea of learners led by learners, as I came from a traditional private school where prefects weren’t a “thing” and the learning environment wasn’t very positive or engaging. I feel that there’s better accountability when learners take action to lead and help each other.

How does UCT OHS equip you to be a leader overall?

We all lead by example. As UCT OHS, we’re all part of our respective leadership “squads” per grade headed by our Squad Champions. They facilitate a professional and organised platform for us leaders to engage with each other in order to improve our communication, critical thinking skills, assertiveness and teamwork. 

Is being part of the Leadership Squad some-thing you’d recommend to other learners?

Yes, I’d recommend it. Some people are born to be leaders and the Leadership Squad is a great space for them to learn and express their abilities as leaders in a safe, inclusive and supportive environment, where peers work towards the same goals and a brighter future for all.

Kamogelo Matlhogonolo Pule (17) has been a learner at UCT OHS for nearly two years.

Why did you apply to be part of the Leadership Squad?

I wanted to use my leadership skills to guide and support fellow learners, because we’re all still finding our steps. In an evolving space such as the online world, it’s easy for them to lose themselves in society’s definition of “what makes a good scholar”.

Sometimes a learner and productivity aren’t best friends – and that’s OK. I wanted to be part of a platform where I could voice the reality of online learners and build a space where learners are able to relate, feel heard and be inspired to grow. The aim isn’t to filter out imperfections or challenges, but to use those as stepping stools towards the next big win, improving as they go. 

What’s expected of you as a member of UCT OHS?

Leading with responsibility, accountability and honesty are key expectations. They play a significant role in shaping a good leader and creating a healthy leadership team. By aligning with those expectations, we set a good example to fellow learners and the many Leadership Squad members coming after us.

Above all, we’re expected to be ourselves. We’re a combination of different personalities, so we all bring some-thing different, yet equally valuable to the table, which allows for a creative and innovative flow of ideas.

Is being a part of the Leadership Squad something you’d recommend to other learners?

Definitely. I believe this role enables one to grow emotionally, mentally and academically. It also creates a safe space for growth with other individuals, which is some-thing many learners need right now, especially in the online space.

The UCT Online High School employs a unique learning model, combining self-paced learning with structured flexibility. This approach has allowed the school to adapt its teaching methods based on data-driven insights, ensuring the best possible outcomes for learners. The school's commitment to continuous improvement is evident in the enhancements made to its learning model throughout 2022 and into 2023, which have resulted in significant learning gains and personal developments for learners across all grades.

UCT Online High School welcomes learners and parents from any corner of the country, looking for a high-quality, online education. UCT Online High School does schooling differently. Forget classrooms, back-to-back lectures, and lots of wasted time. Here, the focus is on learning, and this is how they do it.

Trusted by 8,000+ parents across the country. For more information on the UCT Online High School, please visit www.uctonlinehighschool.com - Applying to UCT Online High School by December 15th means skipping the last-minute application frenzy and securing a learner spot for the 2024 academic year. 

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