Meyerton, Saturday 14 September 2013 – South African youngsters are taking matters into their own hands to help ailing communities in all nine provinces of South Africa, and their efforts are not going unnoticed.
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 individuals playing their part. 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.
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.
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 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.
Leo Makgamath, the programme manager for civil society at Brand South Africa, 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 Makgamath 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.
Leaders of today
Makgamath said that the youth were not leaders of tomorrow but rather leaders of today. An Mpumalanga project stood out for him, he 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 project that stood out for Makgamath was a stationery drive run by two Tshwane residents. Charl and Ella van der Merwe run the Write Project, which involves collecting stationery from affluent communities 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.
Ahead of the workshop, Brand South Africa’s chief executive office, Miller Matola, said: “We have been impressed by the quality of questions and input, coming from the young people who attend these Dialogue and Action Workshops. It shows that many of our youth are serious about understanding the NDP 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.”
The NDP offers a long-term strategy of eliminating poverty and reducing inequality by 2030. According to the plan, South Africa can realise these goals 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 (both state and independent), community youth groups, residential youth facilities and correctional services. The aim of the awards programme 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.
This dialogue 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.