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South African adventurer who’s helping children to reach new heights through education

It’s the start of a new set of global goals and a young man is setting out his latest targets to educate youth in his community. Monde Sitole is not just any 26-year-old though.

He’s from a South African township – but this adventurer and educational campaigner has scaled, sailed and climbed his way across some of the world’s highest peaks and most treacherous oceans.

And one challenge he is passionate about conquering is South Africa’s out-of-school problem.

Monde knows all too well the struggles of education, which are a major part of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals from now until 2030. With the Monde Sitole Education Foundation, he is fighting to get some of the country’s 700,000 children back into the classroom.

And he’s one of A World at School’s network of Global Youth Ambassadors, who do amazing grassroots education work in 85 countries.

Despite South Africa having a strategy to tackle the education problem, since 2000 the number of children out of school has increased alarmingly. Also, a shocking 500,000 children with disabilities are excluded from schools, according to Human Rights Watch.

Monde believes South Africa’s schooling problem is down to a lack of good teachers, which leads to students becoming uninspired and disengaged with the education system.

He said: “We want to reduce school dropouts, repetitions, illiteracy and hopelessness by fostering proactive educational means, strides and interventions that require the community and school to both be instrumental.”

President Jacob Zuma recently revealed his own struggles for education and why he faced a backlash because of it.

Monde with some of the children his foundation is helping

Speaking to students on behalf of his Jacob Zuma Foundation, he said: “I suffered because I never went to school and that is the reason why I decided to educate myself… There are people whose business is to say that we cannot have a man who never went to school running a country.”

However, Monde is dedicated to tackling the education problem and is already bringing the benefits of learning back into the hearts and minds of children growing up in and around his home town of Khayelitsha, Cape Town.

Speaking about the work of his foundation, Monde said: “We had a pop-up chess tournament at the mall on the 20th International Children’s Day to raise awareness about right to a quality education that allows youths and students the skills, values to better champion, pioneer their lives and influence their own destinies.

“We walked the whole of Khayelitsha bearing lanterns and commence at a spot where we will plant a tree as a sign and vow that our future depends on us to move forward and pioneer.

“Then we mounted a billboard with faces and portraits of people who are making relevant change in the community. After we sign the petition, we will do this annually, inviting schools with faces of change ambassadors to share their story as inspiration to spark a culture of dreaming.

“We host a series of educational and innovation showcases for the public because our other goal is to create a relationship between school and community. As Africans say, a child is raised by a whole village.”

Monde has had a varied life already. He attended classes on board a tall ship school that sailed from Nova Scotia to various parts of the world, including Brazil and Trinidad. He was chosen to represent Africa in the international Pangaea Mike Horn young explorers camp in Switzerland.

He has climbed Africa’s highest peak Mount Kiliminjaro, Mount Elbrus in Russia and Alaska’s Mount Denail – the highest in North America. Now he’s got his sights on skiing to both the North and South Poles.

Monde is a supporter of A World at School’s #UpForSchool campaign

But for now he’s concentrating on education. With high out-of-school levels in some regions of South Africa, Monde refers to the education situation as “murky” and knew he had to do something.

He said: “Young people had lost any interest whatsoever for education. They saw no need or had no incentive to go to school because the school were not engaging, inclusive and had not integrated a pragmatic approach to teaching that saw schools making a meaningful impact in their lives.

“Everything they were learning was just theory in the textbooks and had no linkage to quality of lives they envisage. That in turn spurred a culture of hopelessness and despair.

“It’s very murky times but it’s now time for innovation more than anything.”

Monde will continue to inspire and help children achieve their educational goals, as well as taking on his own personal challenge of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro again.

He said: “I am going to Mount Kilimanjaro for the third time, this time on behalf of quality education by raising funds for our Imbewu scholarship.

“I am also going to K2 without bottled oxygen – not because I’m superhuman but because I always say mountains are not stadiums where they satisfy my desire to achieve but are the very cathedrals where I practise my religion.

“I carry the suppressed dreams of every township kid in my backpack.”