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A frightening percentage of South African schools are under-resourced and underperforming. We risk creating a generation who do not have the skills nor the

confidence to effect much-needed change in our society and economy. Sumbandila wants to be part of the solution. Even the best designed macro solutions require

micro-level implementation and so we focus on essential micro-level interventions.

Through its educational scholarship and mentorship program Sumbandila aims to create leaders who will one day make significant contributions to their own

communities and to Africa.

Who We Are

Sumbandila, a nonprofit organization founded by Leigh Bristow, Jamie Corsellis and Mike Linden in 2007, began as a solution to a critical problem in the Vhembe district of Limpopo, South Africa.


As educators, Leigh and Mike felt that many brilliant children were “ falling between the cracks” of South Africa’s educational system.

Leigh having played a leading role in founding a multicultural school in 1999 (, and having interacted with a special young woman from a neighbouring village, Crizelda Sibone, realised that they were not reaching extraordinary children from the poorest of the poor.

In in October 2007, after a life changing conversation with Jamie Corsellis, one of the founders of Marwyn Investments London, and a generous donation from Marwyn, Sumbandila was born.

Since then, Sumbandila has changed the lives of over 400 young men and women.

Sumbandila Collage.jpg

``One isn't necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can't be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest`` ~Maya Angelou

What We Do

Sumbandila aims to find intelligent and determined children from extremely deprived rural backgrounds and take them on an eight-year educational journey, with the long-term goal of creating leaders and entrepreneurs who can effect much-needed change in our society and economy.


Sumbandila places a high emphasis on much-needed skills like mathematics, science, and technology but also recognizes the importance of literacy, arts, and humanities.

We do this via three distinct programs.

  1. Full residential scholarships at Ridgeway College.

  2. Saturday and holiday schools (our “Exceptionals”)

  3. University admission and support.

``Curiosity is one of the permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous intellect.`` ~ Samuel Johnson

How We Recruit

When testing and interviewing students, Sumbandila looks for both academic excellence and what we call “grit” and “zest,”.

By “grit” we mean determination and discipline in the face of hardship and “zest” refers to exuberance and of course humor. Curiosity is an important factor for entrepreneurial thinking but is difficult to determine in an interview where the participants are nervous and desperate to please.

The selection process consists of;

  1. Reaching out to between 20 to 30 rural schools to nominate potential candidates.

  2. A Maths and English sifting test conducted in accessible locations. (transport costs are covered.)

  3. A means test which requires extensive documentation and community engagement to accurately determine the financial situation of the family.

  4. Interviews for finalists which results in selection onto either the Full residential Scholarship program or the Saturday/holiday “Exceptionals” program.


23% of our students study or have studied in Science faculties, 15% in Engineering, 6% in IT and 19% in the Health Sciences.

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