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.
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.