While many children are officially off on holiday, some young people from Mfuleni and surrounds will be part of the Iliwa Laphakade Gospel Church summer holiday programme. There was great excitement and anticipation at Manzomthombo High School as hundreds of anxious children took to the stage, to compete to dance, sing and recite poetry as part of this holiday programme. The church said its holiday programme has in the past succeeded in keeping schoolchildren out of trouble during school breaks.
Church leader Pastor Bathandwa Sithole said their main aim was to keep children safe and active during the holidays. He said the reality is that some adults with criminal intent prey on children, especially during the holidays. Pastor Sithole said had they had more funding, they would have kept the children until the schools reopened in mid-January. “We are not only taking children from Mfuleni but also from Wesbank and Kuils River. The aim is to fight crime and drugs. We want to protect them from thugs. During this time they become targets. As a society we have to save and protect them,” he said.
He made a call to corporates to fund such programmes and through that bring about positive change in the townships.
“We are grateful to the Department of Community Safety because they are fully behind us.“We are always targeting 150 children but we end up with more than 300. That alone tells the story that children are willing to work with us,” he said. He said the programmes had been running for five years now and reiterated that in those years it has been successful.Youth leader Mphomotseng Madikizela joined the children on Monday December 12 in the school hall. Ms Madikizela said it was with great gratitude that church is able to have the children in a safe space during the “most dangerous time”.
“Obviously the main aim is to take them out of danger. We are in the festive season where (unfortunately) everything is possible. By bringing these children here to learn from police, social workers and firefighters will definitely save them from dangers,” she said.
She said for the next five days these children would be educated and empowered in a variety of ways. The programme runs from 8am to 4pm every day. “The numbers are growing day by day. It is sometimes a problem to control them but we are happy because they are out of danger. Some are here to play only but we are doing all we can to have control. We had programmes in June, we were also be able to contain them. Our programmes are always successful,” she said. Sisipho Nkungwana was among hundreds of children who are participating in the programme. She said instead of hanging out with friends or watching television at home, she opted to spend her time with others at the programme. She said it was good thing to spend the time with people of her age and younger, doing something valuable. “This is the place to be for young people. I was part of this during winter and I had good time. Here we are not exposed to danger. I enjoy it very much. I am here to learn but also to have fun,” she said.