As we commemorate the last day of Youth Month in South Africa – highlighting 27 years of democracy, it becomes crucial to interrogate the access of youth to education and empowerment at such a pivotal time of unprecedented youth unemployment in our country.
The official unemployment rate as recently noted by Statistics South Africa was 32,6% in the first quarter of 2021. The results of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) for the first quarter of 2021 show that the number of employed persons remained almost unchanged at 15,0 million (a slight decrease of 28 000) in the first of quarter 2021.
This year’s Youth Month theme as highlighted by the president, Cyril Ramaphosa is: The Year of Charlotte Mannya Maxeke; Growing Youth Employment for an Inclusive and Transformed Society. During his speech on the day of commemoration, the president urged young people to take responsibility of their future, very much like how the generation of 1976 did.
The foundation, founded in 2016 as a beneficiary of Standard Bank’s Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment transaction, seeks to benefit communities in South Africa through the promotion of economic development and the alleviation of poverty, with the primary focus being on the youth. The foundation spent the start-up phase of its existence thinking deeply about the type of investment partner it wanted to be and the kind of investment approach it would need to effect immediate change and create long-term impact. It was a time of exploring, testing, reflecting, and refining and in May 2019, it was formally launched. As it entered the next phase of its existence, the foundation saw its role as an advocate for greater impact through its investment approach for social change in the communities at large.
The foundation since its inception has been able to provide access to education and skills training by means of funding deserving applicants through courses of their choice through a scholarship, the Artisan Training Institute (ATI) and Feenix. To date the scholarship programme has supported 53 scholars, 8 of which have since matriculated in 2020 and 45 of whom are currently still in the programme.
A total of 50 students were recruited for the ATI training, with 3 graduating after a 24-month training programme. Other participants in this group continue to do in-service with various employers. The foundation has invested R1.1 million towards the Feenix programme which was used to cover historic debt for 21 university students. From this group a total of 8 students are formally employed, 2 are currently pursuing their postgraduate courses, 6 are studying part-time whilst completing their internship programmes and 5 are currently seeking employment opportunities. The impact report by the foundation, published in 2020 details how the organisation has made a valuable impact since it’s official launch in 2019.
The foundation’s aim is to make long-term commitments to advance the growth of young people so that they can reach their full potential and be productive citizens who contribute to the economic development of their communities. Over the years the foundation has been able to upskill young people, whilst opening those much-needed doors to higher education and training and employment opportunities.
Lathitha Xapa who matriculated in 2020, was one of the beneficiaries of the foundation’s High School Scholarship Programme, is currently doing her first year in BA Law at the University of Cape Town. Lathitha started applying for scholarships and bursaries by herself when she was in Grade 6. With a strong passion to get quality high education, she never let her circumstances deter her nor make her feel she was undeserving of the opportunities ahead. During her application journey, the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation introduced to her to the Tutuwa Community Foundation, where she was awarded a full scholarship from grade 8 to matric.
Lathitha had the following to say: “The foundation has done so much for me, and it goes beyond financial aid. The mentorship and emotional support I received from the foundation was the key element to my academic successes. Paying for someone’s school fees is a great thing but then also offering them mentorship and supporting them emotionally goes a long way. We go through so much as teenagers and just having that support in your life and people who believe in you the way the foundation believed in me, can completely change the course of your high school career”.
Having access to great education and the required support during that journey is of utmost importance. As we wrestle with youth unemployment as a country, it is becoming increasingly important to ensure that young people have full access to quality education which puts them a step closer to reaching their dreams and potential. Therefore, it is important to have the involvement of the private sector, making use of its available resources to assist where it can rather than waiting on government.
Lawrence Mkhabela, who currently resides in Tembisa in Johannesburg, had struggled to get employment for years. He never gave up trying. He dropped off his curriculum vitae wherever he could and as a result, was introduced to t the foundation through the Artisan Training Institute (ATI) during one of his interview sessions.
The foundation funded Lawrence’s artisan training at ATI. He is now a qualified Diesel Mechanic artisan. He is proud of his journey and his resilience: “I would not be where I am today had I not been introduced to the foundation. I can safely say it brought me ten steps ahead of my goals and opened so many opportunities for me. The foundation opened doors for me and gave me the ability to provide freely for my family. As we commemorate Youth Month, I am personally taken back to all the sacrifices that have been made by the youth of 1976. They gave all of us a gift that allows us all to explore opportunities. I am grateful to be alive and able to make change where it is needed the most”.
Zanele Twala, CEO of Standard Bank Tutuwa Community Foundation says that “the Standard Bank Tutuwa Community Foundation is dedicated to opening doors and granting deserving youth access to skills and education. As we commemorate and acknowledge Youth Month in South Africa, it is important that we highlight the importance of education as the key to unlocking bigger and greater opportunities for our young people”.