The atmosphere was joyous in UCT’s Humanities Department on Friday May 6, when the Development Action Group (DAG), in partnership with the university, held a graduation ceremony to mark the end of its eight-month youth empowerment programme.
A total of 23 young people graduated from the programme that equips Khayelitsha youth with skills to become active citizens and boost their job prospects.
Participants learnt about ethical leadership, designing and facilitating learning, South African history as well as the history of Khayelitsha, human settlement, advocacy and lobbying.
Siphokazi Kwekweni, programme co-ordinator for capacity building at DAG, said the programme built the basis for informed citizen participation and leadership to resolve current and future urban challenges. It encourages youth to be agents drawing on their energy and ideas.
She said young people needed structured opportunities to apply what they knew and new ways of thinking.
“This was a pilot project, but it has yielded the desired results and has exceeded our expectations. The future of these 23 graduates now looks promising, as some of them have got permanent jobs. Some have started their own NPOs and others are planning to start their own businesses. We want people that are already active in their communities and are passionate about community work,” she said.
Ms Kwekweni said certificates in designing and facilitating learning events carried 30 credits towards a higher certification in adult education. She believed an investment in building youth capacity, especially those living in disadvantaged areas, should be viewed as a good social investment.
Ms Kwekweni said the programme was the first of its kind, offering young men and women an opportunity to learn and apply what they had learnt in real projects and activities.
“We have worked with a number of projects and partners to implement various aspects of this programme, including UCT, Grail Centre Training for transformation and Global Citizenship and contracted specialists,” she said.
She said the organisation wanted to improve Khayelitsha, but there were some obstacles including alcohol abuse and absenteeism.
A beaming graduate Matsha Dakuse, 32, described the occasion as one of her most “memorable days”. She said she considered herself fortunate to have been part of the programme.
“I was unemployed when I joined this programme, but I was doing a lot of voluntary work in my community. When I heard on radio that they needed people who were active in their communities, I decided to grab the opportunity. Now, I have been permanently employed,” she said.
Ms Dakuse said she had learnt lot from the programme. Her view of things had changed and her confidence had been boosted.
Linda Cooper, Associate Professor at the School of Education at UCT, said they felt it was important for them to be part of the programme, providing much-needed skills to youth in disadvantaged communities.
Ms Cooper said participants had attended classes at UCT for a week where they were taught about how policies were made and issues around human settlement. But, she said, they felt that a week was not enough.
“Some of the challenges that I found was that writing and reading (skills) were lacking when they came here. But their thinking capacity was quite advanced. They needed to polish their writing skills to be in the same level as their thinking capacity. It’s quite exciting to see how they have developed from the first time they came here to now,” she said.
As Ms Kwekweni wrapped up her emotional and powerful speech, she said: “Graduation is only a concept. In real life every day you graduate. Graduation is a process that goes on until the last day of life. Work for a cause not for applause and live life to express not to impress, and don’t strive to make your presences noticed just make your absence felt.”