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.

Solar Schoolbags Shine Light On Education

Knowledge is often spoken about as a guiding light shining the way to an ideal world. The pursuit of knowledge and education is even more so preached as a moral imperative – a sort of social and honourable duty. Still, what is less discussed in our deification of education are the limits that are placed on some in our society who are furthest from reaching this supposed light. In South Africa, a lot of those who have to navigate more difficult and sometimes, dead-end roads on their way to attaining education are children. Two South African businesswomen are helping bridge this gap through an ingenious initiative for children from rural and urban poor backgrounds.

Repurpose Schoolbags is a green initiative helping children from households without electricity resume learning after the last bell has rung. Plastic shopping bags are recycled and later made into schoolbags equipped with solar panels. These bags are bought by companies then distributed to selected schools. The solar panels in the bags are charged as the children walk to and from school. When the children get home after school, they can use their bags for light to do their homework. In addition to helping them do their homework, the bags also helps the kids be safe from cars on their often dangerous and long treks home through reflective strips sewn on the bags.

Repurpose Schoolbags is revolutionising education through solar schoolbags
Millennial duo, Thato Kgatlhanye and Rea Ngwane, are the founders of Repurpose Schoolbags, an initiative helping propel African children’s education. Photo: Miora Rajaonary

The children who are given these bags are from homes that use non-electrical alternatives for light like candles. These sources can be dangerous and sometimes the children are banned from using them through the night to study or do school work as the families have limited supply. These families then understandably have to prioritize economic judgment over the benefits of education that are also dependent on social capital they do not have access to.

The revolutionary concept of Repurpose Schoolbags is the brainchild of two millennial women from the North West only in their early twenties. This initiative was started by Thato Kgatlhanye in collaboration with her friend and business partner, Rea Ngwane. Thato, an entrepreneur hailing from Rustenburg in the North West, founded Rethaka, a social start-up business which has provided employment for many women in Rustenburg through initiatives like Repurpose Schoolbags. To date, Rethaka has distributed solar schoolbags to children in 6 countries in Africa.

On their website, the Repurpose Schoolbags team emphasise that the initiative is about choice not charity. It is not about taking the thirsty by the hand and forcing them to drink. It is about helping those who have to navigate a world where education has been made a lifeline but has been hidden or made accessible to only a few.