How can you focus on early childhood education if a third of babies are dying of diarrhoea diseases? How can you keep a population healthy if you live a full-day walk away from the nearest clinic? How can you excel as a student if you struggle to read because of poor quality schooling? How can you reach your full potential if no high school exists in the area? How can you start a business without access to skill development, capital or other necessary inputs for creating a productive future?

No single intervention, no ‘silver bullet’, can enable a path out of poverty. We began the Bulungula Incubator in 2007 as a crisis response to the many challenges our community faced. Now, our projects span from Pre-conception to Career, focusing on transformational impact through incremental change. 

This transformational impact over time is demonstrated by Siyamthanda Dibanto. She has grown up alongside the Bulungula Incubator, paving the way as the first in many of our projects.  

Siyamthanda at Jujurha Preschool, 2009.

Siyamthanda was born in 2003 in Nqileni Village, she is the middle child of four sisters and one brother. Neither of her parents finished primary school, and are unable to read or write. Her father is disabled, so he didn’t have the option to find work outside of the community. As a result, her family relied on government grants for a livelihood. 

In 2009, Siyamthanda was part of the first class to attend the Jujurha Preschool, the very first project of the BI. She was a bright child who loved to learn. After attending Grade R at Jujurha Preschool, she attended a local government primary school. During that time, the BI was researching how to support Maths and English learning for primary school learners. Siyamthanda took a keen interest in Maths, so we had her try out the first MathsBuddy programme, coming after school for extra practice. A couple of years later, the BI formally established the iiTablet Tshomiz (iiTT) programme to provide supplementary Maths and English lessons through e-learning, which Siyamthanda continued to participate in throughout her primary school years. 

In 2019, the Bulungula College (BC) opened as the first ever high school in our area. Siyamthanda enrolled at the BC in grade 10, and in 2021, she was part of the first-ever graduating class and passed her Matric. She is the first person in her family to graduate from high school.

In 2022, Siyamthanda decided to take a gap year between her studies, so she applied and was accepted to the Job Skills and Entrepreneurship Programme (JSEP). Now, she is back at her primary school, in the iiTablet Tshomiz classroom, as a paid iiTT intern (full circle!), gaining meaningful job experience. This year, she will also complete an accredited Future Education and Training (FET) course with JSEP, and earn her learners and drivers’ license— again, the first in her family to drive. 

Siyamthanda is busy preparing her application for Nelson Mandela University, where she wants to study law. She aspires to become a criminal justice lawyer. She says that she wants to travel and see the world, fighting for those who need it most. 

All of the services that Siyamthanda received over the years from the Bulungula Incubator are achieved at a cost of R1,500 ($100/€88) per year. Your support makes a difference. Learn more about the BI’s impact here.

Jujurha preschool, 2009.
Siyamthanda coming after school to practice MathsBuddy.
Siyamthanda and her mother, 2013.
Siyamthanda receiving her Bulungula College Matric necktie from her mother, 2021.
Siyamthanda interning as an iiTablet Tshomiz facilitator at No-Ofisi primary school, 2022.