Scores of children from Mfuleni were kept busy during the school holiday when Liwa la Phakade gospel church, in partnership with various organisations, held a youth programme, at Manzomthobo High School.
The one-week programme was aimed at keeping youngsters away from criminal activities and sought to empower the youth with life changing skills and keep them safe during the holiday.
Church secretary Bathandwa Sithole told Vukani that young people were impressionable and that gangsters took advantage of this, by trying to lure them into anti-social activities.
Like other township communities, he said, their area was not immune to social ills that many communities across the country were battling with.
He highlighted drug and alcohol abuse, crime, teenage pregnancy and a lack of respect as some of the challenges their neighbourhood had been battling with for years.
The holiday programme, he said, was spearheaded by the Department of Community Safety and had also been held in various communities.
Mr Sithole said the core message to the children was that they should be law-abiding citizens and prioritise education as the only tool that they can use to create a better future for themselves.
“To stay out of trouble, you must obey the law and rules of your parents.
“School holiday is the perfect time for gangsters to lure the children to join their criminal activities because many parents are at work and they leave their children alone. And because there no programmes that provides extramural activities to keep them occupied during the holiday and you would find them roaming around the streets with nothing to do and we felt that as the church we need to do something.
“The role of the church is not only to preach and restore faith, but it needs to assist the community with moulding the current generation to be better citizens who would contribute positively in the growth of the country.”
About 250 children were attending the programme on a daily basis and sustenance was provided during the course of the programme.
“We also urged them to show respect to their parents, particularly to their grandmothers and grandfathers,” he said.
The church started the programme in 2014, but due to a lack of funding and support they had not been able to run the programme last year.
However, he said, they were grateful to local NGOs and SAPS who had visited them and equipped the children with knowledge and information in assisting them to make informed decisions about their future.
Anathi Jolingana, 15, thanked the church and other organisations for equipping them with life skills and keeping them busy during the school holiday.
He said they had been advised with ways to deal with peer pressure that often leads them to commit criminal activities.
“I will make sure that I pass the knowledge and information that I have got here to my younger siblings at home and ensure that we make the right choices about our future.
“And I hope the church would host this programme in every school holiday not only in June, but also in September as well,” said Mr Sithole.