Ikamva Youth Equips Young People For The Future

Young people are our future. This might sound cliché and self-evident. Still, the world is steadily heading towards a youth-centred age where large numbers of young people are increasingly coming to hold important positions of power and the public conversation. It seems then that the youth have everything going for them in terms of opportunities, access to readily available knowledge and that they are young. In South Africa, however, a large population of young people are not able to enjoy these opportunities due to issues in our education system. Ikamva Youth, an organisation that started in Khayelitsha in 2003, is helping South African high school students equip themselves to make the best of opportunities.

Ikamva Youth Equips South Africa's Young People For the Future Through Education
Ikamva Youth is helping equip young people to access post-school opportunities. Image: Ikamva Youth

Parents and citizens across the country have been worried about the dropping of mark requirements to pass, Maths as a compulsory subject and general low bar set for our public school education. While more children have been able to attain their matriculant status in public schools, the majority of them are unable to enter varsity or get decent work opportunities due to lagging behind their peers in private schools when it comes to their marks or scope of their knowledge.

Ikamva Youth founders, Makhosi Gogwana and Joy Olivier, decided to tackle this when they became aware of the poor Maths and Science results for matriculants and the implications these results had for the future of these learners and their communities. They set out providing tutoring and giving information to learners at Makhosi’s old high school in Khayelitsha. Ikamva Youth grew out of this work and now has a core team of 56 people operating in 14 branches throughout South Africa. Their work impacts thousands of young people every year.

The Ikamva Youth team consists of a growing number of volunteers comprised by university students and local professionals. Students start enrolling in the Ikamva Youth programme from Grade 9 up to matric. This helps set the foundation for them to compete at a level relative to their peers from more privileged schools.

Young people who have been through the programme and have entered varsity  or the workforce also come back to help out. In fact, more than half of the volunteers at older branches like Khayelitsha consist of people who have benefited from the programme with over 80% of the Khayelitsha management committee being ex-students. Although funding for the programme is a challenge in spreading the programme to more places, Ikamva Youth has gained from the loyalty of the grateful students who have gone on to pledge their support as volunteers.

Ikamva Youth’s vision is for all South African learners to be able to “access post-school opportunities that put them on the path to earning a dignified living within four years of matriculation”. This might seem like a hefty goal, but the Ikamva Youth team is achieving it one milestone at a time. After an assessment was done on the organisation, it was concluded that there was an improvement of between 1 and 1.5 full years’ of learning for learners who participated in the programme. In addition to this, 90% of learners who matriculated under Ikamva Youth’s guidance accessed post-school opportunities. The team wants to broaden this to have 100% of the learners who matriculate access these opportunities.

In a world that is progressively looking to the millennial to lead the way to the future, the work that Ikamva Youth does with young people is crucially important in order for South Africa to have its aspirations reflected in that future.

Sustainable Livelihoods Through Agri Innovation

Sustainable livelihoods have come to have a more crucial place in the lives of communities in the Eastern Cape recently. As a province which depends on the farming industry more than many other provinces, the Eastern Cape agricultural community has had to find creative ways to protect livelihoods in light of the slump occurring in agricultural sector. Fortunately, creativity is a trait the Eastern Cape is not short of. Tracey Michau, a cattle farmer’s wife from Cradock, is demonstrating this through her resourceful soap-making start-up business.

Tracey’s Boerseep start-up is the product of an old soap-making family recipe which she rediscovered. The recipe uses discarded beef tallow which her farm already has. Tracey’s family recipe is now helping create employment for women in the Cradock community. These women are part of a group which would have endured job losses due to a downsizing agricultural sector.

Sustainable Livelihoods in Farming Communities Through Innovation
Tracey Michau is helping create sustainable livelihoods for rural farm workers through a family soap-making recipe. Photo: Boerseep/Orange Grove Karoo

As of the first quarter of the year, 44 000 agricultural jobs have been lost nationwide. This results in devastating consequences for farming and rural communities which depend on those jobs disproportionately compared to other industries. Agri Eastern Cape president, Doug Stern, has noted the loss to these communities resulting from a decrease in farm employment. Due to a scarcity of industry, job diversity and opportunities, rural communities look mostly to farms for income, even if it is mostly seasonal jobs. The loss of this income further worsens socio-economic issues like alcohol abuse, violence, school drop-outs, extreme poverty and dysfunctional families and communities.

Despite these drawbacks there is a lot of potential in the Eastern Cape, particularly in these rural and farming communities. The landscape of the Eastern Cape is filled with resources – natural, cultural, historical and otherwise. This province has the capacity to support sustainable livelihoods that are unique and able to compete outside of its borders. Tracey has also learned this with her product. Although Boerseep is still in its early stages of being established, Tracey has found that there is a cross-border market for it on online organic stores and farm stalls locally.

Tracey is one of a group of farmer’s wives in this province who are members of Agri Eastern Cape who have found ways to not just give back in the superficial sense, but more importantly, contribute to developing sustainable livelihoods for their communities. Like Tracey, these women are using all types of materials at their disposal on their farms to create permanent jobs for farm workers who might have only had seasonal employment picking fruit or shearing sheep and goats. She is now training a member of the community in the process of production who will in turn train the growing team.

Mobilisation of Community Through Martial Arts

Mobilisation is critical to the survival or in the very least, healthy functioning of our communities. More importantly, mobilisation around activities that are fun and superficial. Activities outside of the realm of politics and formal proceedings. These activities can be weekly card games at the local hall, monthly youth events like sports and music or simply getting together to organise an event for the elderly twice or more times a year. Uniting and engaging in such activities as communities  is instrumental in fostering empathy, discipline and significantly, group action. It is through mobilisation or group action that people start lifestyles and culture. Sensei Monwabisi Njomba, a trained martial arts teacher, is using the lessons he learned from his craft to cultivate discipline through mobilising the community of Cape Town’s Khayelitsha township.

Mobilisation in Khayelitsha community through Njomba Fitness Academy
Sensei Monwabisi Njomba and his community are mobilising to make changes through health and fitness training. Photo: News24

Before moving to Cape Town where he now runs a dojo (a martial arts training centre), Sensei Njomba got his start in karate, kung fu and other martial arts as a young man in Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape. The discipline and fulfillment martial arts instilled in him coupled with his lifelong passion for the youth led him to open a gym where he could bring young people together through health and fitness. He then used this opportunity to teach the young people of Khayelitsha self-belief, respect, focus and responsibility.  Sensei Njomba says that his training has helped him keep his head high and wants to impart that to the youth in his surrounds.

Sensei Njomba has established the Njomba Fitness Academy to encompass the varied courses he facilitates to draw more people from his community. He also teaches basic self-defense to women, aerobics, organises fun runs and “fitness explosion” showcases. The variety of activities offered at the academy has also made it popular amongst the older residents of Khayelitsha. The academy is currently supported by generous residents and donors and is open to any funding or support.

Sensei Njomba’s story is not only one of a local good Samaritan. It is also an example of how we inspire the changes we want to see. Mobilisation is key is affecting those changes, especially at a larger scale. Most of us want our communities to be safer, united, healthy and prosperous. However, embracing these ideals is not enough. People often only act or give their support when they feel reflected or considered in a cause.

The sensei could have lauded the ideals and message in his heart on a platform which might be more visible or honoured. His audience might have respected his platform and the status or education that afforded him that platform and then leave just as they came. On the other hand, Sensei Njomba realised that for youth to do rather than just know what is right, they have to associate those ideals with their lifestyles. The sensei did just that by taking martial arts, a discipline that is a huge part of popular culture, and relating it to life lessons and ethics. Mobilisation teaches us that a message, no matter how good or pertinent, is received more effectively when it reflects its audience.

Responsive Engagement Clears The Way

If there is a principle one should internalize and keep cultivating as an Asset-Based Community-driven Development (ABCD) practitioner, it’s responsive engagement. A French, feminist comic simply known as Emma illustrated the gender dynamics of household responsibilities. In the comic, Emma illustrates the feminist concept of the ‘mental load’. This concept relates to when a man expects that in order for him to be involved in household chores, his partner has to first ask him. According to the comic, the man is then viewing her [the partner] as the manager of their household chores. This theory also applies to development practitioners and their partners, both those that support or benefit from the work.

Responsive Engagement Clears The Way
Responsive engagement ensures that partners are on the same page and the way is cleared to work. Image: Illustrated by French comic Emma & published in The Guardian

Emma illustrates a number of modern women in relationships. Most of these women are mothers. There is a unilateral dilemma in these women’s relationships – their men expect to be coaxed into performing their share of labour even though it is beneficial to both parties in the relationship. The men will bring work friends home for dinner and expect the wife to handle the cooking for the dinner party, the kids’ supper, handling the kids so they don’t disturb the adults, etc. while she is also handling her own work! This dynamic is not necessarily a gendered assignation of roles, i.e. women in the kitchen with children at their feet and men on the sofa with a beer in hand. According to the men, they would have performed those duties – it’s just that they were simply not asked.

However, the women also have valid reasons from abstaining to ask. The men will go only as far as they are asked. They will clear the table and leave the wet cloth next to the foot of the table which the children might slip on. And so the women must live with the ‘mental load’ – always aware of what needs to be packed for work, who needs to be thanked, what date the meeting is on…

A similar dynamic exists in developmental work. Developmental practitioners and organisations often find themselves swamped or dealing with labour they did not bargain for. We sometimes find ourselves in these dilemmas not due to being requested or demanded to do so, but because of feelings of expectation or helping gestures that are later exploited. Practitioners find themselves doing the work they feel pulled towards by their hearts in addition to uncompensated labour community members and partners can actually do for themselves. One might start by offering to help the Addams’ kid from the Homework Champions Project with mathematics and soon find the Addams family and their whole street expecting to have their taxes filed for free.

At the 2016 ABCD Festival, I learned an illuminating fact. As development practitioners, we actually partner with communities and supporters (these could be funders or our leaders). We are not saviours. We cultivate reciprocal relationships with community partners, not beneficiaries. Our community partners are not called beneficiaries, as they also have a stake in the work beyond what we can do or give to them. We are also not slaves to funders and people dangling money above our heads on the condition that we do things that are not on our agenda or passions list. We then start caring a mental load for things that we did not even think of due to expectations that eventually turn into obligations. This is where responsive engagement comes in.

The ABCD definition of responsive engagement is “you are prepared, awake and deliberately choosing which way you go.” This means that you do not go with the flow and then end up forced to make good of whatever outcome pops up. Yes, one can find good in any situation. However, for us to be more effective and productive as development practitioners, we need to be more direct and deliberate in our decisions, stances and especially the steps we take. This does not mean that we should start turning people away because their requests are not in line with our operations – we need to be more decisive and focused in order to not deplete or starve our passion and for our communities to not grow dependent or comfortable with free labour they do not value.

Responsive engagement also means that we do not act as parents and start deciding for our partners. We lay the ground for discussion and understanding. We assess aspirations, capabilities and expectations. We then set out our responsibilities as both practitioner and community. Afterwards, we ALL do our part to achieve our shared goal.

Brownie Points Is All For Nonprofit Organisations

Partnerships Are Crucial

South African change-makers and nonprofit organisations are the template for the philosophy of turning little into very impactful and far-reaching somethings. This statement is in no way a fluffed up assessment of the efforts of development practitioners. In fact, it does not even reflect the extent of sacrifice and creativity so many in this field employ daily in the hopes of inspiring a positive change. ABCD (Asset-Based Community-driven Development) practitioners are especially familiar with challenges that arise in the work of unearthing and amplifying capabilities and the good in our communities and ourselves. Anyone venturing on this journey requires a considerable amount of support, insights and sometimes, visibility.

Brownie Points Is All For Nonprofit Organisations
Brownie Points is a platform helping nonprofit organisations grow their impact through connectivity. Image: Brownie Points

NPO Partnerships Through Brownie Points

While engaging in Ikhala Trust’s 2016 ABCD Festival, I got a first-hand taste of the creativity of SA nonprofit organisations, their successes, community and insights. One of the most poignant lessons from the festival was the significance of appropriate, genuine partnerships that are ultimately aimed at enriching the sector in productive and tangible ways. This is especially pertinent at a time when resources and funding to the sector are being scaled down. The work of establishing effective partnerships, capacity-building and creating profiles takes time and resources – things most nonprofits cannot afford to part with. Brownie Points, a platform established to support South African change-makers, is partnering up with development practitioners to help make this process accessible and fruitful for organisations.

Web-Based Platform Assisting NPOs

Brownie Points is a web-based platform assisting nonprofit organisations to maximise their impact through connecting them with a community of involved and passionate supporters for specific projects. Brownie Points has packages tailored for each joining organisation’s requirements.

The packages range from organisations that are starting out to those that have been established and are looking to grow their presence and impact. The first package is for fledgling or new NPOs seeking to increase their visibility and get volunteers and support. This package is free and comes with an online Brownie Points profile for sharing information and successes with supporters and gaining volunteers. The second package costs R1 460 for a full year and helps already established organisation with growth, fundraising, online campaigns and receiving online donations.

Engaging Partners As Alternative Sources

Brownie Points also profiles nonprofit organisations in engaging and informative articles on their website.
Nonprofit organisations in South Africa are in a very interesting period right now. With the gradually diminishing flow of funding to the sector, practitioners have to look at alternative sources that will not compromise the integrity and quality of their work. Finding partners and communities of people operating in the same sphere of concern is a strategy that not only works to supplement diminishing funding but also presents a wealth of knowledge and humanity. Brownie Points is all for making these partnership operate at their most productive level.