Access to education is one of the defining differences between urban and rural youth – with opportunity far more easily available in cities than in the countryside.
Sakha Ingomso Lethu, which means “building our future” in isiXhosa, aims to address this inequality. The NGO has a flagship programme, Sakha Ulutsha Lwethu, which means “we are building our youth”, to provide information and tools for rural and township youth to be able to access institutions of higher learning.
It is the work of Simamkele Dlakavu, a social activist who has represented young people in various youth summits around the African continent and the world. In 2013, she was recognised by the Moremi Initiative, a Ghanaian NGO, as one of 28 of Africa’s Most Outstanding Emerging Women Leaders for 2013.
Dlakavu holds a BA degree in international relations and political studies as well as an honours degree in political studies from the University of the Witwatersrand. In 2014, the Mail and Guardian newspaper named her one of South Africa’s Top 200 Young South Africans.
“There are many reports that show the challenges facing rural and township youth attending school in these areas which include lack of infrastructure, lack of trained teachers, no facilities such as libraries or computer labs, amongst many well documented challenges,” Dlakavu wrote on SA Goodnews about the project.
“What is often missing in such reports is the resilience and hunger that many of these youth have to get an education, which still remains one of the gateways to class mobility in South Africa.”
Sakha embraces South Africa’s National Development Plan or Vision 2030, which seeks to improve the outcomes of the country’s rural development and education. In terms of the plan, South Africa is working to ensure people are not disadvantaged because they come from disadvantaged or rural areas.
The NGO held workshops in June 2015, during the school holidays, in Venda, in Limpopo. The province suffered serious educational challenges in the recent past when textbooks did not reach learners in time.
“This year, in June/July, Sakha Ulutsha Lwethu partnered with Duke University and the Organisation for Tropical Studies, South Africa office (OTS) to run workshops for rural youth in HaMakuya, in Venda in Limpopo,” Dlakavu explained.
“The workshops were focused on exposing the learners in HaMakuya to various study options for post-high school career options. The University of Cape Town, Wits University and the University of the Free State provided application forms, prospectuses and various other informational packages to help the students make the best choice proper fit career option.”
Her group spoke to the learners about various funding options as many of them came from low income families. The area also had a very high unemployment rate, she explained, and many households were dependent on government grants and “piecemeal”, or temporary jobs.
“OTS has been working in the HaMakuya area for a number of years now on various programmes such as the Global Health course run with Duke University, and as part of the programme a number of American (mostly) undergraduate students visit the area for about 10 days, three of which are spent on ‘homestay’ with the families in the area,” she said.
“Yet the organisation realises the importance of not just taking from the community, but being able to give something back to the area and hence the partnership with Sakha was important.”
Sakha held the workshops during the June school holidays but the turn out impressed Dlakavu. “Although it was still school holidays at the time of the workshops,” she said, “the students came out in numbers to listen and interact as some were in ‘winter school’, revising and already preparing for the final matric exams.
“We heard the students want to pursue careers in engineering, medicine, the arts, law and many other careers. Yet, there were many other challenges such as uncertainty about where they would source funding for higher education, as well as uncertainty about the National Benchmark Tests some universities run.”