Miller Center Fellowship

Document Type

Research Report

Publication Date



IkamvaYouth empowers South African students from under-resourced and under-performing secondary schools to achieve academic results competitive with those of the best-funded schools in the country. The organisation is able to offer extensive tutoring services free of charge due to the hard work of its committed volunteer tutors. As more students, called “learners,” flock to join the programme and IkamvaYouth grows, it faces challenges in attracting and maintaining an optimal amount of volunteer tutors.

We conducted a quantitative online survey of tutors’ demographic information, backgrounds, and experiences with the organisation. Of IkamvaYouth’s approximately 300 tutors, 223 responded. We conducted tutor and staff interviews and group discussions with a total of 37 individuals within the organisation, initiating critical dialogue on topics such as tutor recruitment, engagement, retention, communication, and the tutors’ overall conception of IkamvaYouth.

Our in-field research activities conveniently coincided with IkamvaYouth’s Winter School, a two-week tutoring intensive hosted by all 10 IkamvaYouth branches during the learners’ winter breaks. At Winter School, tutors assist the learners in reviewing the learners’ curriculum before the upcoming national exam period. At most branches, Winter School is held at a neighbouring university. For some, it is be cooperatively hosted by multiple branches. We conducted the individual tutor interviews and tutor group discussions exclusively during these two weeks of Winter School.

Following the conclusion of Winter School, Grade 12 learners attend IkamvaYouth’s Matric Camp, a oneweek tutoring intensive that prepares the graduating students for their matriculation exams, a deciding factor in university admittance. We conducted the individual staff interviews exclusively during Matric Camp, gaining staff members’ perspectives on some of the same topics that we had already discussed with tutors.

Our findings suggest that IkamvaYouth can improve three facets of tutor retention. First, tutors can be better prepared for the realities of tutoring by accessing standardized, comprehensive orientation and training. Second, branch staff can more efficiently communicate with tutors to achieve meaningful, sustainable impacts on tutor satisfaction. Third, IkamvaYouth can engage tutors in participative initiatives that inspire ownership of their roles and responsibilities within the organisation.

We present three deliverables to address these potential improvements. The Field Research Analysis, written specifically to address the needs of IkamvaYouth national staff, includes analyses of the results of the survey, interviews, and discussion groups, and can be leveraged to better understand tutor identities, motivations, and needs. The Orientation Pack, written specifically to address the needs of IkamvaYouth tutors, provides convenient access to the standardized resources necessary to their success. The Tutor Engagement Plan, written specifically to address the needs of branch staff, frames the necessity for and means of achieving meaningful, solution-based discussions between tutors and staff.



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