Sailing Towards Change

Monde Sitole is an alpinist and sailor from Cape Town, South Africa. His story starts when he got an opportunity via the Cape Wind Jammers Sailing Trust to be among the first Africans to attend school on board a tall ship on a voyage from Cape Town to Bermuda. Currently he is running Educational Strategies Foundation to develop a culture of achievement and excellence.

It was on that very first trip that a friend introduced Monde to bouldering. After returning from the voyage, he was chosen to take part in the Mike Horn Young Explorers Camp in Switzerland, where he became fascinated by high altitude mountaineering and responsible exploring. After he met Mike Horn personally he conceptualized his ambition to scale the highest peaks on each continent and ski both the South and North Poles unassisted. To this point, Monde Sitole has succeeded with Kilimanjaro, Elbrus (the highest peak in Europe), and Denali in Alaska, the highest peak in North America. And now he is prepping for Mount Everest without bottled oxygen.

Sitole is also a Global Youth Ambassador for a World at School. The organisation and its network of ambassadors do grassroots education work in 85 countries. 

“I have always said that there is no formula to how I’ve turned out. One thing led to another and it’s evident of the fact that when you aspire and prepare well and always avail yourself of opportunities they will come.”

But this story is not so much about his successes, but about his will to act. 

He started the Monde Sitole Educational Strategies Foundation to develop a culture of achievement and excellence by promoting an impactful, meaningful, comprehensive, holistic, world-class education and training system that is engaging and integrated.


Monde Sitole

Photo from the archive of Monde Sitole

Why did you decide to base your foundation in Cape Town? 

It’s based in the townships of Khayelitsha and rural areas of Eastern Cape because of the dire need, and if we are truly to make an indelible impact we need to approach our challenges with the imperativeness they so desire.

Through it, he is fighting to get some of South Africa’s 700 000 children back into the classroom. That is the challenge he is most passionate about, conquering South Africa’s out-of-school problem. 

He has said: “Young people had lost interest in education. They saw no need or had no incentive to go to school because the school was 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 textbooks and had no linkage to the quality of the lives they envisaged. That in turn spurred a culture of hopelessness and despair. 

“Now it is time for innovation more than anything.”

How does your foundation work? What are its goals and aims? What has it achieved to this point? Do you need any kind of help? 

The Monde Sitole Educational Strategies Foundation is anchored by an insatiable mission to provide dynamic, integrated, inclusive, and engaging education and values- and character-based training systems. Innovation and Ingenuity are the missing links needed to inject life into today’s education and for Youth to spearhead Solutions towards solving our troubles and the challenges we face as country. Serious change needs to take place.

In order to produce the quality individuals who will lead our country, we also need quality education. As we are products of our education, so it’s undeniable that we need a more up-to-date, creative, values- and character-based training system to fulfil this endeavour better. 

The Foundation’s Vision is developing a culture of achievement, efficacy, and excellence by promoting an impactful, meaningful, comprehensive, and holistic, world class education and training system that is engaging and integrated, to foster innovation and spur new knowledge for the socioeconomic and sustainable development of the nation. To ensure opportunities that are accessible to all, to provide learners with values and skills to further their personal, critical, and exploratory thinking, encouraging them to partake and innovate and adapt to changes in an increasingly globalized environment. 

One of the actions the Foundation has realized was a pop-up chess tournament on the 20th International Children’s Day. The idea was to raise awareness about the right to a quality education that will provide young adults and students the skills and the values to champion and pioneer their lives and influence their own destinies.

Some other actions that we undertook together with our pioneers included walking the whole of Khayelitsha bearing lanterns and commencing 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 stories as an 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. 

Under the Foundation they have The Desert Rose Adventure Club which is the outreach effort under the foundation that works with young boys who come from extreme backgrounds. We try to mutate that very zealous reckless spirit into the wild and use that as a catalyst for inclusive development. We focus on rock climbing, bouldering, and ice climbing. We feel this is relevant because a lot of our young people in the townships are like fishes swimming in a pond, not knowing that there is a greater sea out there. When you give them an experience, there is something latent and intrinsic in them that gets switched on.


“The Next School Innovation Showcase“, coming up in September, will showcase the future of education and learning institutions. We will have exhibitions and presentations by youth pioneers, innovators, and inventors. To name just a few: That of Repurpose Schoolbags and Shalton Mothwa, 25 years of Epoch Microchips who invented the charging laptop bag, Ludwich Mariushane of drybath 25, Sir Stuart Ntlathi 26 years, inventor extraordinaire, and Refilwe Ledwaba 26 year’s founder of Sawia pilot.

On the opening day speakers and inventions will reflect the fact that we want to inspire them and engage them. 

The second day will be for teachers with speaker John Gilmour, founder of Leap Science School and education activist and futurist.

The third day will be for everyone, including families.

And the last day, speaker Bheki Kunene of Mindtrix, together with Lufefe Nomjana of Espinca innovations will give a challenge to students to highlight their own problems and barriers.

The main preparations are done, and we are on our way to achieving most of it with our partner in the US, Morehead State University, possibly to Kentucky to visit the Space Science Centre and possibly even pursue degree programs (B.S. in Space Science or Master of Science in Space Systems Engineering). We want to show children new and innovative solutions instead of just waiting. Because when we advocate free education and quality education we are not talking about merely getting a posh job and a great life there far away but we talking firmly about the advancement of Africa, decreasing the brain drain and developing our country out of aid dependency.

You are also organising, very soon, a Girls’ expedition to the Kilimanjaro, for education and fundraising for girls’ empowerment. Can you tell us a little bit more about it?

The climb is scheduled for June 5, 2016 returning on the 15th. The underlying and pressing intent is that we feel that more engaging, innovative, empowering, value- and character-based education  is imperative if we are to stand  a chance at producing quality leaders. We want to give wings to the women figures who continue to shape our world, as it is said when you educate a man, you educate a man, but when you educate a woman you empower a nation

This is all led and anchored by our next school initiative, to be hosted in September at the Bandwidth Barn, a social innovation expo for schools to encourage frugal innovation using education as a catalyst for development by using the most abundant resource, which is ingenuity. We believe that we stand a far greater chance to introduce change by acting as a collective, hence we call  for all who can to assist in any way to make this endeavour a reality. 

What was the best part about Disadvantaged Kids’ Climbing Day, what do you remember as a moment that definitely marked that day?

The smiles and awe in the faces of the kids were priceless, that it is a human right, to be happy and alive. 

How was that accepted by parents?

They were so supportive and told me how great an impact the project has on their kids, who were at risk and now their true potential had been unleashed. The hard and painful part of this job for me is to see how fragile kids are, and how easily they can lose hope if they don’t see results. So I involve them and their parents to be the part of the journey.

How did you come on that idea to begin with?

As Africans say: “A child is raised by a whole village.

I have also learnt much through assisting and studying. That granted me the opportunity to give them lessons and grow into a Foundation. So I found it only natural to do the same and share my knowledge with others. I have realized that when you help, the world unlocks. 

What are your ways of fighting? How much have you achieved so far?

We have achieved a quarter of what we have set out to do, but because of lack of funds we have to focus on the ones we feel can generate a sizeable and impactful change that can steer us in the direction we envisage.

What should each of us do for the world? 

We should never stop caring.

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