Young leaders making a difference in their communities

Yesterday, President Jacob Zuma delivered his State of the Nation Address (SONA) where he attempted to address issues affecting the youth. Fighting a complex reality caught between South Africa’s apartheid history and democracy, South African youth are at a risk of inheriting an uncertain future.  Young South Africans are looking for bold leadership that will drive the youth agenda and fulfill the promises that have been made with the establishment of various engagement platforms such as the Youth Desk, the National Youth Plan and National Development Plan.

Youth are hungry for action-packed programmes that will connect them with opportunities for youth involvement in public innovation. ACTIVATE! Change Drivers is one such programme focused on shaping South Africa’s future leaders while creating an environment that will allow young leaders to thrive. The network is made up of over 2000 eager young people (Activators) who are ready to change the future of South Africa. To date, many young people were able to drive their innovative ideas and inspire other youth to take up the baton and change their communities. Below are some of the youth who are part of the programme to change communities and the lives of their peers.

Activator, Prince Nofoto runs the Future Leaders and Young Great Minds project established in 2013 when Nofoto saw that many young children from his community were walking to school with no shoes or jersey’s in the middle of winter. Nofoto started this project on his own, but has managed to keep it running from support he has received from family, friends, neighbours and various community organisations. The project was established with the vision and aim of addressing social issues and injustices within his community, he also saw an opportunity to bring positivity into the lives of youth. “I aimed to empower the youth both academically and in life by chipping away at the ignorance that saturates the impoverished community.” he said. Although only running for 4 years, Future Leaders and Young Great Minds has benefitted the community greatly, young leaders are being moulded by the project and the poverty cycle is slowly turning. In the coming years, Nofoto hopes that he will receive more funding to grow the project and reach more youth.

Initiated in 2014 by Gladys Nomvuyo Sebeko, the FATWA (From a girl to a woman) Back to School Drive was borne out of a need to educate and inspire young women to build their confidence and self-esteem. Sebeko together with other five youth noticed that many teenage girls miss school during their monthly menstrual period and many were dating older men just to afford basic toiletries. Reflecting on the importance of FATWA, Sebeko says: “Our community is a previously disadvantage community which has informal settlements where most households are low income households.” Because of FATWA, learners from Buhle Bemfundo Secondary School and Michael Zulu Primary School have been assisted with sanitary towels and school shoes. Through the project, many lives have been changed and lives have been saved, once a month Sebeko gathers the teenagers in her community where she runs mentorship programmes designed to guide and teach the group about self-confidence and preserving their dignity. To date, the project has assisted 300 learners. FATWA hopes to reach many more youth within Gauteng and Ekurhuleni. 

In 2014, the Mankweng Cluster Youth Development started the Grade 12 Motivational Tour to help Grade 12 learners in and around Limpopo. This group of young people were motivated by the matric results in their area: “We had to reflect on the results and we agreed that there can be other issues causing young people not to work hard. We had to look at those issues and how we can address them,” says one member of the project. The project plays a great role in the community, learners are provided with motivational talks, personal coaching, mentoring, extra classes and they also give out stationery when needed. Young people have benefitted from this project greatly, their attitude towards their work has changed they are more eager to go to school. Many Grade 12 learners have also been assisted with applying for bursaries and university applications. With some funding the project hopes to be able to assist more than 50% of the schools in their area in the coming years.

These Activators are managing to make a huge difference in their communities. They do hope to see more funding come their way so that they can see their programmes expand to reach more youth in South Africa.

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