SYDNEY - One of Australia's most successful Aboriginal mentoring projects is bringing its methods to South Africa and Uganda.
The Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience, or AIME, began in 2005, serving just 25 Aboriginal children in Sydney. Since then, the program has grown rapidly, providing opportunities to 15,000 Indigenous high school students by pairing them with thousands of university undergraduates, who provide free tutoring.
At the heart of AIME's work is time. University students give their time for free to teach and guide Indigenous high school pupils between the ages of 12 and 18. These youngsters, in turn, are given time to visit university campuses to attend workshops, and they can stay in the system for their entire high school careers.
The scheme has helped some of Australia's most disadvantaged youngsters finish high school, attend universities and find jobs.
The mentoring program will be exported later this year to Uganda and South Africa.
Model for mobilization
The founder of AIME, Jack Manning-Bancroft, has recently returned to Sydney from a trip to Africa, where he explained his vision to students at the University of Pretoria.
"I said to them, 'I do not pretend to know anything about South Africa. ... What I do know is this model can mobilize volunteers," he said. " ... We can move quickly and we can build a global movement around this, which can have an energy and a force.' ... They were really excited, because it is not someone coming in saying, 'I have the solution for you.' It is, 'I have a template [with] which you can build it yourselves.' "
Despite the concerted efforts of state and federal authorities, charities and other welfare groups, educational inequality among Indigenous groups persists. Disadvantage is entrenched, and while improvements in educational achievements are being made, many Indigenous students do poorly at school.
About 60 percent of Aboriginal children are already well behind their non-Indigenous counterparts when they start school at age 5. Australia's original inhabitants make up about 3 percent of the national population, but suffer disproportionately high rates of poverty, unemployment and imprisonment.