Rewarding youth excellence

Ray Maota

Magdalene Moonsamy, COO of the NYDA with Steven Ngubeni, CEO and Daniel van Vuuren, executive manager of the NYDA at the press briefing of the awards.
(Image: Ray Maota)

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The inaugural South African Youth Awards aims to inspire youngsters by recognising their efforts in various fields and awarding them for the good work they do for their communities.

Hosted by the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), the ceremony took place at Gallagher Estate in Midrand, Johannesburg, on 28 July 2012.

The NYDA was launched in 2009 by President Jacob Zuma, and is mandated to oversee the socio-economic development of young South Africans to ensure that they reach their full potential. The organisation works with young people between the ages of 14 and 35 from disadvantaged backgrounds, including those with disabilities.

CEO Steven Ngobeni spoke at a press briefing in Johannesburg on Thursday 26 July.

“With the awards we seek to provide a platform to showcase the exceptional contribution that young people are making in their communities,” he said.

“We also hope to tell the world about the inspiring stories of these individuals who make extraordinary achievements despite the odds and the challenges they face.”

Out of 1 018 nominations received on the NYDA website, as well as by fax and mail, 45% were entries from female candidates. The nominees were also found to be mostly between the ages of 19 and 33 years.

The finalists represent a wide sample from all nine provinces and the individuals come from rural, peri-urban and urban areas.

Sponsors include the public broadcaster channel SABC1, BlackBerry, Motions Hair, a hair care range that is part of the Unilever group, and airliner SA Express.

Criteria for nominations

To qualify for nomination, one had to be between the designated ages, residing in South Africa with a valid identity document, and having made a meaningful contribution to youth development either as an individual or as part of an organisation.

Nominations opened at the beginning of Youth Month on 1 June and closed 18 days later. However, an extension was announced by the NYDA after requests from the public who felt that the nomination period was too short, and so the process was reopened between 26 June and 13 July.

The judges

A panel of nine judges, made up of people involved in youth related initiatives, chose the winners and runner-ups of the categories.

They included Grace Mhlaba, CEO of LoveLife; motivational speaker Masingita Masunga; and marketing gurus Sylvester Chauke and Martin Sweet. Education analyst Graeme Bloch was also a judge, as was Harold Maloka, the spokesperson for Collins Chabane, minister for performance, monitoring and evaluation. The rest were Titus Baloyi, who is chief executive of the Bembani Group, as well as president of the South African Youth Council Thulani Tshefuta, and Thapelo Maleke, president of the Youth Chamber of Commerce.

The list of nominees and its validity was further scrutinised by an independent body.

The categories

Nominees were chosen in eight categories, which included academic excellence; arts and entertainment; entrepreneurship; extraordinary champions; health and wellbeing; science and technology; social cohesion; and environment.

A special presidential award was given to the nominee who stood out from the rest across all the categories – this was disabled Durban-born Nolwazi Pinkie Madlala. Madlala is currently working on her thesis for her master’s degree in clinical psychology.

The NYDA described Madlala as an inspiration to others to “soar beyond the sky”. She also took the top prize in the category for extraordinary champions.

The top prize in all categories was R50 000 (US$6 055). The runners-up received R20 000 ($2 421), while the presidential award prize was valued at R100 000 ($12 107).

The social cohesion category had the highest number of nominations, 304 in total, followed by entrepreneurship with 283, and arts and entertainment with 164. The social cohesion category applies to young people working to help integrate people into society who would otherwise struggle on their own.

The category with the fewest nominations was extraordinary champions, for which people with physical abilities can be nominated. It had 14 entries in total. The health and wellbeing category had 47 entries, as did environment, while science and technology received 41. Magdalene Moonsamy, COO of the NYDA, said the stories of the nominees should serve as a great inspiration to the rest of South Africa’s young people.

Ngobeni agreed, saying that his organisation wants young South Africans to learn from the strength, determination, commitment and courage of the nominees and resolve to do it for themselves and their country.

“Our message is simple: youth of South Africa, your circumstances do not define your future. Limitless youth, rise up and take hold of your destiny.”