Like any other township student Zukile Ntentema spends a lot of time at home, planning, dreaming big and fantasising about a good life.
At his Nyanga home he is a trusted child who is respectful, responsible and trusted.
While growing up in Nyanga, he lost his father at 16. It is then that he was forced to start developing his leadership skills.
He also had less time for his friends because he had to hustle for his two siblings, sister and brother.
But things are working out for the 30-year-old Zukile.
Currently a first year Bachelor of Social work student at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and founder of the Inyanga Yethu programmer, he and two other UCT students, Funwako Dlamini and Vuthlarhi Shirindza, will head to Tufts and Harvard universities in the United States.
The three have been selected among a global cohort of 40 for the Next Generation Leaders programme which aims to harness diverse and ethical approaches to civic engagement and activism. The programme is an initiative by the Talloires Network of Engaged Universities in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation.
Zukile said he was not surprised by his selection because he always had interest in politics and research. To him the trip means a lot.
“I am from the child headed home and my leadership skills started there,” he told Vukani.
“When I was 16 I lost my father and I had to make sure that my siblings have electricity and something to eat. I made sure that my family was sorted.
“Now the meaning of it is, I am now given an opportunity to sharpen my leadership skills to continue adding value to my community. This means the world to me and my community. I learn from others and also give something to them. They will sure learn from me too.”
UCT said each of the three ticked all the boxes in terms of requirements, a commitment to civic engagement and making a difference in the lives of others through practising good citizenship and social responsibility, by way of their political activism, applied research, social entrepreneurship and other forms of service.
The trio will also participate in the Talloires Network Global Leaders Conference, which will be hosted at Tufts University and Harvard University in the United States from September 30 to October 3.
Each group will work on one of four civic engagement themes: Pandemic Recovery and Resilience; Innovations in Gender Equity; Structured Listening Methods; or Civic Engagement Futures.
Asked about his future plans and his advice to young people in the townships, he said he planned to take the term “socially engaged student” to another level.
A major concern for him is violence and he cites Western Cape Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz’s comments that Cape Town is facing a violence pandemic. In addition to this, he said, according to the global list determined by the annual Mexican Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice, Cape Town is ranked eighth among the most violent cities in the world.
“Township youths must be disciplined, be competent whether in sport, education or anything they do, follow vision.
“Part of my plan would be to invent game-changing interventions that will help remediate the violent problems we face in the city. I have already kick-started plans for innovative interventions. I also want to contribute to developing leading-edge public and social policies that will address societal needs and social ills through research and implementation,” he said.
He urged those who are involved with young people to produce world class individuals. “It does not matter what challenges we are facing, we need to produce a high level of competence. Let’s not be terrified by the world,” he said.
On the trip he hopes to broaden his knowledge of how to lead in different contexts. His interest is research, politics and leading government or university departments. “I hope to lead a department one day so that I can help others and influence change by implementing state-of-the-art policies,” he said.