On 16th June every year, South Africa celebrates our youth. We remember how they rose together in 1976 to protest against the injustices of apartheid, many of them dying for the cause. Their action and their sacrifice have played an integral role in the progress that South African democracy has made since then.
This June, that’s not all we’re celebrating at Routes to Resilience – because this Friday, the 19th, we will be cheering the 43 young people graduating from our Resilient Futures programme. Despite lockdown and the need to pivot to a new way of learning, these young people have completed our programme as part of the career training they are receiving at Afrika Tikkun. They are graduating despite numerous challenges, not least the coronavirus lockdown, and they deserve all the recognition and applause they receive, and more! Now that’s resilience.
It hasn’t been an easy journey, so they should be even more proud of their achievements.
Coronavirus and lockdown regulations have presented huge challenges to billions of people across the world. Many have lost their livelihoods, many are isolated from family and support networks, and, of course, far too many have lost their lives. Our programme participants have been affected by isolation, loss of family income and by fear of disease and the unknown, but have shown incredible fortitude.
The lockdown measures implemented in South Africa in late March meant that we were no longer able to meet in person at the Afrika Tikkun centre. The programme format had to be reworked and has continued to evolve on a daily basis: our chief delivery channel was WhatsApp, as that is the platform that the greatest number of participants could easily access. But we are aware that the agility needed of us as facilitators is just a fraction of that required by our learners in recent months. Not only have they faced the same challenges as the rest of South Africa and indeed the world – isolation, fear and loss of family income – but they were already operating in the face of systemic obstacles. The reawakening of the Black Lives Matter movement in recent weeks, triggered by the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota but spread to communities around the world, reminds us all of the hurdles that black people, including our Tikkun graduates, face as they strive to create a fair livelihood and future for themselves and their families. In South Africa and across the world, young black people have to navigate and live with the consequences of systemic racism in their everyday lives. From the perspective of completing the Resilient Futures programme, these have included:
- Poor network connectivity in many townships means that many participants experienced delays in receiving their tasks and instructions
- By definition, the young people taking part in the Afrika Tikkun programme are from low-income backgrounds. This means that seemingly simple tasks such as topping up data and purchasing stationery are impossible
- Because a telephone is often the only connected device in the household, all documents must be read on a small screen – so much more difficult than a tablet or laptop screen
- Low-quality housing and services can cause many distractions such as leaks and electricity outages
These challenges, and so many more, can make completing any task daunting, stressful and anxiety-inducing, regardless of the best efforts of the programme facilitators. Then, there is the added pressure that this could be their only chance of gaining skills and accessing work, essential for them to break the cycle of poverty into which they were born. They feel a responsibility to make the most of this opportunity because, in that respect, they are the lucky ones.
With all this in mind, it is nothing short of a miracle that these 43 young people have persevered and reached the end of the programme. Like the young people of 1976, their hard work to complete the course is a form of protest. They have risen to defy the obstacles laid before them by systemic injustice long before they were born. But instead of taking to the streets, they have taken to their books, demonstrating that the only way out is through, and that they won’t accept their ‘lot’. They are forging their own resilient futures, finding ways to improve their own lives and those of their families and communities. Many have seized opportunities to shine, demonstrating that they are already compassionate, resilient and courageous leaders.
- Dumisa, Anita, Xoliswa, Andiswa, Yamkela and Lulama have all partnered with the Mfuleni Community Action Network (CAN). Their task has been to map Mfuleni, create awareness around Covid-19 in their community, understand the needs of the community, and communicate those needs to partners in wealthier suburbs who have the means to help.
- Khanyasile joined the Khayalitsha CAN, assisting them with administration.
- Ncebakazi and Amanda assisted in the Mitchell’s Plain area, helping to teach local shops and communities about the importance of social distancing and how to ensure that they do not spread Covid-19.
- Asive, Andiswa and Andisiwe did us proud in an entrepreneurial exercise that we gave them during the early days of lockdown level 5. They not only completed their assignments but managed to sell the fresh produce and masks that were the products of their entrepreneurial ventures.
- Three sewing machines were generously donated to us by the Obs and Constantia CAN and helped Rose, Andisiwe and Ncebakazi start their sewing initiatives – starting with masks and next will be looking at how to sew reusable sanitary pads.
- We introduced our participants to social entrepreneurs as part of the programme: five of them impressed our partners so much that they won internships with Co-Create, Twyg, YWaste and The Clothing Bank.
We are in awe of the achievements of these passionate and determined young people. They have shown extraordinary resilience and strength, and they should be extremely proud of their success as they graduate. We look forward to following their journeys as they find employment, support their communities and forge bright futures for themselves and the people around them.
Some of our inspiring young graduates Zooming their way into a brave new world, delighted to be allowed back into class for computer and presentation skills training.