Youth urged to get involved

[Image] Youth members from the President’s Award were involved in various service projects, including the refurbishment of desks at Meyerton High School, which is under-resourced.
(Images: Romaana Naidoo)

[Image] Lerato Funeka, an ex-pupil at Meyerton High School, was delighted to help restore the desks at his old school.

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Romaana Naidoo

The quality of questions and input coming from the young people at the Dialogue and Action Workshops have impressed all the partners, says Brand South Africa’s chief executive office, Miller Matola. “It shows that many of our youth are serious about understanding the NDP National Development Plan and becoming involved in its implementation. South Africa has recently improved in terms of innovation on the World Economic Forum Innovation Pillar. Young people are ideally placed to participate in a knowledge-based economy, which is the trajectory South Africa is pursuing.”

Brand South Africa teamed up with the President’s Award for Youth Empowerment – which this year celebrated its 30th anniversary – to organise three Youth Dialogue and Action Workshops to acknowledge those youngsters who are playing their part in building a better South Africa. The most recent of the Brand South Africa Play Your Part – National Development Plan Outreach workshops was held at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in Meyerton, in Gauteng, on 14 September.

It was the third in a series in which youth have interacted with representatives from the President’s Awards, the NDP and Brand South Africa. The first two were held in East London and Cape Town on 31 August and 7 September, respectively. Speaking at the third, Leo Makgamath, the programme manager for civil society at Brand South Africa, pointed out that the youth were not leaders of tomorrow but rather leaders of today.

The purpose of the workshops was to expose President’s Award participants to The National Development Plan (NDP) which was presented to Parliament last year by the Minister in the Office of The President, Trevor Manuel. The aims of the NDP, its broad objectives, and practical ways that young people can be involved in the realisation of its Vision 2030 were a common theme at each of the workshops.

Voluntary community service

At each, delegates were also involved in service projects, which included a literacy project, a second-hand clothing distribution project and refurbishing desks for an under-resourced school. Marius Gwebu, from Barberton Correctional Services, was on hand at the third workshop to help the youngsters work on the desks for Meyerton High School, and about 150 desks were refurbished by the participants and their parents. Gwebu belongs to an initiative in Barberton that restores desks at the correctional facility for schools in Mpumalanga.

Makgamath, who worked on a few desks, took the opportunity to interact with the youngsters. He spoke to them about shaping their future today and not waiting for tomorrow. Lerato Funeka helped him with some of the desks and the 22-year-old spoke with pride about restoring old desks for Meyerton High School, which he attended. “I believe that I’ve been through a lot with that school and the projects that are being done through the President’s Award will not only help with desks but will also help with books in the library, among others,” he said.

An Mpumalanga project had stood out for him, Makgamath added. It involved a group of 32 children and teachers, who planted food gardens in impoverished areas that were not only used for the schools, but for the community at large. Apart from their feeding schemes, the group also cared for the elderly in the community by clothing them, feeding them and cleaning their homes for them.

Another standout project, he said, was a stationery drive run by two Tshwane residents. Charl and Ella van der Merwe run the Write Project, which involves collecting stationery and distributing this to disadvantaged youth. Makgamath said it was initiatives such as these that broke the boundaries between groups and encouraged social cohesion among different races and social classes. This, he said, was laying the foundation for a cohesive nation.

The National Development Plan

The NDP offers a long-term strategy of eliminating poverty and reducing inequality by 2030. South Africa can realise these goals, it says, by drawing on the energies of its people, growing an inclusive economy, building capabilities, enhancing the capacity of the state, and promoting leadership and partnerships throughout society.

The President’s Award for Youth Empowerment has over 15 000 active participants drawn from schools, community youth groups, residential youth facilities and correctional services. Its aim is to provide a holistic framework for purposeful self-development of young people between the ages of 14 and 24. These awards are affiliated with the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Association and the patron-in-chief is President Jacob Zuma.

Through these awards, Youth Dialogue and Action Workshops have been running since 2008, encouraging participants from a broad diversity of socio-economic and cultural backgrounds to engage with themes relevant to their lives as young South Africans. The chief executive officer of the President’s Award, Martin Scholtz, said the programme demanded young people take responsibility for their own development and the development of those around them.

“Engaging young people in their role in the realisation of Vision 2030 is critical. The award programme is about action and we are excited to make the link between what award participants are already doing on the ground and the objectives of the NDP, through these Dialogue and Action Workshops. The NDP is not a government initiative – it’s a citizen’s initiative,” said Scholtz.