Meet a Scientologist—Sonja Botha, Opening Doors for the Youth of South Africa

If there is one thing preventing South African youth from moving up, it is lack of quality education. Scientologist Sonja Botha is determined to give young people in her country the opportunity to accomplish their goals, and make it possible for South Africa to truly live up to its promise.

According to a report released last month by the University of Stellenbosch near Cape Town, South Africa, 80 percent of the nation’s children who are raised in low income households fall behind academically by the time they are 8 years old, and this trend continues throughout their schooling and closes the door to opportunity on the many. 

Sonja Botha, a second-generation Scientologist, took education for granted until it was time for her own two children, now 21 and 22, to enter the system.  It was then she realized she needed to take greater responsibility for the education not only of her son and daughter, but also for children throughout her city.

“I began studying various educational methodologies, but the one I kept coming back to as most effective was Study Technology developed by L. Ron Hubbard,” says Botha.

That was why she sought out Education Alive, a program licensed by Applied Scholastics International to deliver L. Ron Hubbard Study Technology in the public and private sector.  And when the group’s executive director retired, Botha stepped up to take over the position.

“It has been an incredible challenge,” she says. “I wanted to do something to make a difference in our city. I saw exceptionally bright children headed for menial jobs and mediocre lives because of a system that was holding them back.  I decided we were going to change that."

Botha initiated a project called “Study Tech Intervention” to help underachieving high school students qualify for university or vocational college admission.

“We tutored them for 40 hours in each subject,” says Botha.  “The result was a 30 to 40 percent increase in test scores, with the end result that 95 percent of the students could continue their education.”

Since then, Education Alive has carried out this program in 100 schools and achieved similar results.  And the program not only improves grades, it also changes lives. 

When one young man who repeatedly failed his classes and had not been attending school for six months learned his girlfriend was pregnant, he  decided to quit school altogether to go to work.  The principal challenged him to attend Botha’s program. Not only did he pass matric (for ‘matriculation’—signifying the student has fulfilled university entrance requirements in South Africa), the new father also went on to university, earned a bachelor’s degree and is creating a better life for himself and his family.

A young woman who dreamed of becoming an engineer abandoned her goal when her brother went to prison and her study time became consumed by his problems.  Encouraged to attend Education Alive classes, she passed her exams and was accepted at a university where she is now pursuing her engineering degree.

While continuing the intervention program for high school students, Botha devised a way to start young students off right in the first place. In her “Reading Adventure Rooms,” children in grades 1-3 double their literacy level in child-friendly, interactive environments.  With corporate sponsorship, the program now operates in five schools, with five more in the pipeline.

Botha’s latest project involves the opposite end of the student spectrum.  When launched, 1,000 undergraduates from the University of Cape Town will attend workshops on Study Technology. 

To date, Botha’s group has trained 480 in Study Technology who have gone on to use it in more than 400 classrooms to the benefit of some 150,000 students.

“We are creating a ripple effect with our programs,” says Botha.  “My wish is that the children of South Africa can ride this wave to a better life for themselves and use their knowledge and skill to create a new civilization.”

To learn more about Study Technology and Applied Scholastics International, visit the Scientology website at http://www.scientology.org/activity/applied-scholastics/study-technology.html.

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The popular “Meet a Scientologist” profiles on the Church of Scientology International Video Channel at Scientology.org now total more than 200 broadcast-quality documentary videos featuring Scientologists from diverse locations and walks of life. The personal stories are told by Scientologists who are educators, teenagers, skydivers, a golf instructor, a hip-hop dancer, IT manager, stunt pilot, mothers, fathers, dentists, photographers, actors, musicians, fashion designers, engineers, students, business owners and more.

A digital pioneer and leader in the online religious community, in April 2008 the Church of Scientology became the first major religion to launch its own official YouTube Video Channel, which has now been viewed by millions of visitors.

Karin Pouw
Phone: (323) 960 3500
Email: media@scientology-news.org

Church of Scientology International
6331 Hollywood Blvd., Suite 1200
Los Angeles, CA 90028
Phone: 1 323 960 3500

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At the top of the ecclesiastical structure of the Scientology religion is the Church of Scientology International (CSI), the mother church for all Scientology. Located in Los Angeles, CSI provides overall direction, planning and guidance for the network of churches, missions, field auditors and volunteer ministers which comprise the Scientology hierarchy it spans, and ensures these various organizations are all working effectively together.

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