Valuing Our Citizens – THE RIGHT WAY

For the vast majority of our youth, education has been their only hope, says Valued Citizens Initiative’s Founder and CEO Carole Podetti-Ngono.

So much has changed in such a short space of time but for many children under Valued Citizens Initiative’s programmes, education equated a solution to poverty.

“Our children are clear that should every learner pass this year, it will prove that government doesn’t care about quality education,” Podetti-Ngono said this was the sentiment young Valued Citizens shared with the organisation.

Podetti-Ngono says the organization and its beneficiaries are not oblivious to the new world that the Covid-19 pandemic has created.

“Yes, technology can close the school year gap, giving access to academic content but so far in our schools in rural and township areas, technology is not engaging learners as there is no live lessons where the teacher explains concepts, takes the time to understand learner’s challenges and depart from what they know to what they need to make sense of. Furthermore, of all the things technology can do, it lacks the soft skills and human contact learners need to gain resilience,” she says.

One of Valued Citizens Initiative’s programmes, Bridging for Life, teaches high school’s children life skills to help them not only transition to higher education but to navigate adult life post high school.

“We believe that these are a big component in helping a child complete matric, get to tertiary and get employed in the career’s path they want to follow,” Podetti-Ngono says.

Last year alone Bridging for Life beneficiaries showed the value of these skills in what they were able to attain. Nationwide 76% of the beneficiaries who were doing Grade 12 had an entrance to University. The Western Cape alone showed 65% of beneficiaries in that province obtaining a bachelor’s pass, a percentage rate way above the national average as only 23.6% reached bachelor level.

Over the years, Bridging for Life alumni who went on to higher education showed great results, with 65% completing tertiary and 62% getting employed.

Bridging for Life alumni Shalo Rakhudu is one such example. When she completed her matric at Bokamoso Secondary School in Polokwane she headed to the University of Johannesburg to study BCom Accounting and is now in month 30 of 36 of her Chartered Accountant articles at Mazars.

Says Rakhudu: “Bridging for Life taught me life skills that were not taught in the classroom environment which I have found to be true to real life. It positively impacted how my life turned out,” she says.

For Rakhudu, it is important to honour your specific journey and story in life and to adopt an attitude of resilience. She encouraged young people to allow difficult times to open them up to new paths and possibilities.

She is but one alumnus that has shown positive gains as a result of the Valued Citizens Initiative’s programme.

“In this way we contribute towards the National Development Plan 2030,” says Podetti-Ngono.

“We believe, however, that as a nation, our focus should be on the things that create employment rather than lamenting about unemployment.

“The youth want to thrive and contribute towards the economy; they want to feel useful. Issues of unemployment exacerbate feelings of inadequacy and strip these young people of dignity while depriving them of a voice within the general development of this nation.”

South Africa experienced the highest jobless rate since 2008 when in the first quarter of this year unemployment rose to 30.1% from 29.1% in the previous quarter. The number of unemployed people rose by 344 000 to 7.1 million. Youth unemployment specifically sat at 59% during this period, the highest it’s ever been.

Podetti-Ngono says even the latest decision to close down schools again for a month will have a negative effect on the youth, some of whom may not know how to navigate the current climate.

“Through our programmes we try and assist young people to become independent citizens who don’t depend on government’s grants. Life skills are such important aspects of a child’s school career. It assists them to be resilient and sustain a positive mindset that is much needed at this time,” she says.

The aftermath of all of the decisions made on behalf of school-going children, Podetti-Ngono fears, will create a prolonged state of high unemployment rates within the nation, more especially for the youth.

For more information or to arrange for an interview, please contact Nicole Walters on 082 451 9393/011 888 8786 or nicole@ambani.co.za