Young minds must be kept active in order for us to avoid seeing youths getting involved in criminal activities.” So says Jo-Anne Lewis who runs the Langa branch of the South African Youth Cadet Academy (SAYCA), assisted by community leader Noxolo Majola.
Among the aims of the initiative is to keep children out of crime. Ms Majola said when the opportunity to start the academy in Langa came up, there was no hesitation from the once close-knit community.
“We are crime weary and we welcomed this initiative with both hands. Our children have something positive to do now.” Ms Lewis said the academy focused on the development of children aged six to 21.
We are teaching them leadership and discipline. Drilling is just one part of the journey to instil principles and values in our children. We are working very closely with local schools and the local police,” she said.
Ms Lewis said because of their interaction with police, children were starting to trust the police and reporting what they think is criminal.
“The Langa police are doing great work with us and helps to forge relationships with local organisations in order to get assistance, encouraging the youth to get involved with this great initiative.” She said their philosophy was built on the premise that children learn from good examples set by adults.
“If they see leaders and parents model, spiritual, social, mental and physical values they will aspire to develop high moral principles as well as loving and caring attitudes and determination to excel in all pursuits as leading citizens,” she added.
SAYCA is the brainchild of General Dr Randall Petersen, a decorated military man and ex-policeman with over 35 years of experience in the disciplinary and behavorial fields.
“From a distance you could think that this is about drilling and marching up and down and you would be grossly wrong. We are changing mindsets here, giving children a much needed foundation in life and survival skills,” said General Petersen.
He said he was touched to see the dedication of Langa branch members and the “jovial mood of the recruits”.
“We are making inroads, bit by bit we will turn communities around,” he added.