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Activities to do with your mentee

1. What should I do on our first meeting?

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Start your relationship by organising a fun activity which will help your mentee(s) to relax. Play games with her/him to get to know them better, by asking ice breaker questions:

  • If you could have an endless supply of any food, what would you get?

  • If you were an animal, what would you be and why?

  • What is one goal you’d like to accomplish during your lifetime?

  • Among the five senses (touch, sight, taste, smell, hearing), which one is your

  • favorite?

  • Who is your hero? (a parent, a celebrity, an influential person in your life)

  • What’s your favorite thing to do during the holidays?

  • If they made a movie of your life, would it be a drama, a comedy, a romantic‐

  • comedy, an action film or science fiction? Which actor or actress would you want

  • to play you?

  • If you were an ice‐cream flavour, which one would you be and why?

  • If you could visit any place in South Africa or in the world, where would you go and

  • why?

  • What’s the best dream job for you?

  • If you were one hour of the day, which one would you be?

  • What are your favourite hobbies?

  • What are your pet peeves or things about you that you dislike?

  • What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?

  • What is one of your favourite things about someone in your family  

  • Tell us about a unique or quirky habit of yours

  • If you were a plate of food and a drink, which one would you be?

  • If you had to describe yourself using three words, it would be....

  • Finish this sentence: If I could be anybody besides myself, I would be...


Discuss practical details of communication:

  • How you are going to communicate (calls, SMS, WhatsApp?). Exchange all

  • your contact info (including the mentee’s parents’ phone number/s)

  • Who is going to initiate meetings (yourself? both of you?)

  • What do you expect from the mentorship programme? (what is important for

  • you: getting to know their culture/family/Alexandra; helping them to shape

  • their future; improving your mentee’s marks; having fun together, including

  • your mentee in your family life, etc.).

  • When and where you should meet his/her parents, mum or guardian

  • What might be the challenges (for instance, if you travel a lot for work)

  • Establish boundaries early, e.g. no phone calls/WhatsApp after 8pm

  • Tell them the importance of time management (not to be late for a meeting,

  • inform you in case of any change, etc.)


Clarify your role early in order for them not to have unreasonable

  • Sign the “mentor/mentees agreement”

  • Book Saturday meetings with your mentee/s for the year in advance, even though some might have to be cancelled. It is recommended to have frequent meetings during the first two months (every 2 or 3 weeks), to bond with your mentee/s. Then, you can meet them every month, but it is good to send them a message every week. 

2. What kind of outings should we do? 

The learners are happy to do any kind of outings (exhibitions, sports, restaurants, nature reserves, theatre performances, etc.). Please check out the list of suggested activities and outings on the Sizanani website.  

  • Try to expose them to places, visits, and events they have never experienced before,
    rather than going to a shopping mall or to watch a movie.  

  • After each outing, ask them to send you/write a short report with basic questions:
    What did we do today? What did I like the most/the least? What did I learn?  
    It always gives you something to talk about at your next meeting. You could also ask them to prepare a short speech about the outing, themselves or any other subject before your next meeting, to boost their self‐confidence and English

We will organise 1 collective outings every term. You will also be invited to attend our Learners’ Talent Show in May (Date TBC).

“I enjoyed the camp at Magaliesburg because I drew a tree on which I was able to list all my interests, strengths and goals for this year. It was my first time going on such a momentous trip in my life.” (mentee)

“We went to the Origins Centre. I enjoyed the visit because I had the chance to explain my origins with the evidence provided at the centre!” (mentee)

3. How can I help my mentee to improve their school marks?

  • We will send you the attendance list from St Mary’s at the end of every term and their school marks twice a year. Note that the attendance of Grade 12 is often low from June, as they have to attend other extra tuition at their schools or elsewhere.

  • If your mentee has skipped many classes at St Mary’s (more than 10), he/she might be excluded from the programme at the end of the year!  The learner might also be excluded from the programme if her/his marks are very low and have not improved during the school year.  

  • Many of our learners have very weak Math and Sciences marks (or Accounting, for those doing Business Studies). The quality of teaching is often not good in their schools, and many learners do not have good study skills. Please read and discuss study tips with your mentee.

7 ways to help your mentee improve their marks:


  1. Encourage them to ask their teachers questions and to join study groups with other learners.

  2. Read and discuss the study tips that are on this internet website with your mentee/s. Many learners tend to “read” their textbooks and try to memorise information without always understanding what they are reading. Showing them different study techniques such as summarising and mind maps, which can be very beneficial to them.

  3. Encourage your mentee/s to do a “study time calendar” where they plan their school work, study time, but also leisure time and other activities (house chores, church services, etc.). Ask them to stick it somewhere they will see it every day. Some learners spend too much time watching TV, for instance.

  4. Tell them to write summaries using their own words and look for information outside of their textbooks (maybe help them to do their own research on your computer).

  5. Explain to them the importance of consistent studying and working through the year. Many learners tend to study just before exam time, at night, without getting enough sleep.

  6. The academic program at St Mary’s (Ikusasa Lethu) is not always linked to the ones taught in the five high schools in Alex. Therefore, there will be times when some learners will cover work at the Saturday classes before they cover it at their schools. In such cases, we advise the that learner do his/her best to make notes so that he can refer to them in future.

  7. Encourage your mentee(s) to read (and talk) as much as possible in English and improve their vocabulary by borrowing books from the library (next to Linda’s office) or from Sandton library, watching TV shows in English, listening to the BBC (they can also like the BBC Africa page on Facebook). When you meet them, you can do a game and write down some “difficult words” from a book or newspaper article and ask them to explain them.

“We did a time management session as well as a study session. This was based on my past experience as well as information I had searched for on the net. (mentor)

“I have improved my school marks drastically. My vocabulary has improved so much. I have learnt communication skills which in turn have boosted my confidence” (mentee).

4. . What career guidance can I offer to my mentee? 

You can help your mentee/s to choose what they will study after matric by attending Open Days at varsities, career exhibitions or meeting professionals in their career choice.  Download our General Overview of South African Education System document.

Check out information for the learners on the Sizanani website regarding career advice.

  • Career talks:  mentors, professionals and motivational speakers are invited to talk to all the learners at St Mary’s. You are welcome to give a motivational talk or share your knowledge about your profession, health/gender issue and life skills.

  • If your mentee/s knows what he/she would like to study after school, check if they have researched the course content, the challenges of the job and whether it fits their personality. Many learners wish to do the same kind of studies (Accounting, Engineering, Medicine) because of peers or family pressure or lack of information/research about other careers.  Some want to do Engineering even if their Math/Science marks are very low. 

  • University pre‐selection is based on Grade 11 results. Research with your mentee/s the minimum APS score or marks they need to achieve on the university websites. Note that all Grade 12 learners are helped to apply to the University of Johannesburg. 

  • Organise job shadowing during holidays. It is a great opportunity for them to gain more knowledge of the business world or the career they would like to embrace.  Examples of career orientation done by mentors:  


  • Check if your mentee/s have a South African ID card. If not, he/she must go to Home Affairs as soon as possible.

  • If your mentee is a foreigner, he/she should apply for SA citizenship immediately, which is required if your mentee wants to study in South Africa and be eligible for a NSFAS government bursary.  

“We had a number of discussions on alternative careers as the mentees were fixed on their choices. When we realised that her marks may not get her into the undergrad degree programme she wanted, we started looking at her second and third options” (mentor)

“We did a time management session as well as a study session. This was based on my past experience as well as information I had searched for on the net. (mentor)

“I made her aware of university options available to her, entrance requirements, target marks and closing dates for next year   (Grade 11 mentor)

“I made her aware of university options available to her, entrance requirements, target marks and closing dates for next year   (Grade 11 mentor)

“They spent a day in my office where they met one person from each department who explained to them what they are doing and provided them guidance for their career” (mentor)

We really had to help her put aside what people around her told her to do (e.g. to study IT but where she has no interest) and what she is. Then, we explained her what sort of jobs her courses made her suitable for and what she could do with it.”(Grade 12 mentor)

5. How can I improve their internet skills?

  • Help them to create an email address (with their name + surname)

  • Show them how to write an email, introduce themselves in the email and sign it

  • Show them how to navigate the Sizanani website and get useful information about tertiary education.

  • Show them education‐related websites.

6. Be aware of the risks!

  • If you ask your mentee to meet you at a place outside of Alexandra, make sure that they know exactly where to go and that it is safe for them to travel in a taxi on their own. Do not forget that there are teenagers who might approve suggestions coming from their mentors because they trust them, without realising the difficulties or the risks.

  • Girls should not travel alone in a taxi, especially after sunset.

“I suggested to my mentee she do the “We Think Code” test. As she was on holiday with her parents in Kwazulu‐Natal, I told her she could go to my husband’s office in Durban on a Friday at 10am where she could use their computer and Wi‐Fi. She said it was ok. On the day of the trip, she arrived at 4am at the taxi rank. But the taxi was late and she got lost in Durban. I did my best to help her as she was sending countless WhatsApp messages asking for directions. I only learned then that she was staying three hours away from Durban. She finally arrived at 3pm and asked at 5pm whether she could sleep in the office. Luckily, her sister is living in Durban and could accommodate her. But I realised my mentee was not prepared for this kind of adventure”. (mentor)

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