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Young movers and shakers in KwaZulu-Natal

| November 27, 2018 | 0 Comments


It was Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela who reminded the world that “The youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow”.

In the Valley of a Thousand Hills in KwaZulu-Natal, there is cause to rejoice as a group of young people demonstrate their collective social conscience through entrepreneurial and collaborative peer projects – a rejoinder to the label they have been given of the “Me Me Me generation”, focused on selfimage, social media and technological gadgets.2 A dynamic group of high school students, calling themselves “Generation We”, inspire one another as they attract students from different and diverse backgrounds to meet and share their individual stories – which resonate in “Our story”.

Meet Phoka Mchunu and his mates

Generation We is a peer-to-peer initiative, intent on finding commonality between the youth from top private and suburban state schools and underprivileged youth from the Valley of a Thousand Hills. The Generation We initiative is the brainchild of Kearsney College head prefect, Phoka Mchunu, who believes in young people empowering one another through sharing their stories and getting to know each other. He says there is a misconception that the youth of today are solely focused on technology, and unaware of and disinterested in wider society, history and their surroundings. “This initiative shows we’re certainly aware, and that we’re vocal about it,” Phoka says. The group currently comprises students from five ISASA schools – Kearsney College, St Mary’s DSG, St Anne’s Diocesan College, Hilton College and Michaelhouse – as well as two local state schools: Kloof High School and Hillcrest High School. Participating pupils have partnered with the indomitable Sibusisiwe Myeni and her Imbeleko Foundation,3 through which talented, underprivileged children in the Valley of a Thousand Hills are identified and assisted with academic support, social interaction and education about leading a healthy lifestyle. Nestled between Durban and Pietermaritzburg, the valley’s breathtakingly spectacular scenery belies its notoriety as one of the epicentres of the HIV/Aids pandemic, as a result of which many of its children have been orphaned and face a bleak future, with limited education prospects.

Planting more than trees

Earlier this year, 140 students from the Generation We group, together with 140 young people from the foundation, completed a five-kilometre mentor hike through KwaNyuswa valley as part of an engagement programme. The event culminated in music, dance, discussion and a symbolic treeplanting ceremony. The theme of the day was “My story. Your story. Our story”. “We, the youth of South Africa, need to find a common thread that binds us together, which will assist us in identifying our role in building a united and prosperous country,” Phoka says. He believes that this can be achieved through discussion, as well as sharing and enjoying activities such as music and dance. During the hike, students walked in pairs with someone they had never met before and shared their personal stories. In finding commonality and understanding, they empowered each other. After the hike, a series of panel discussions were held about things that excited them and issues that concerned them going forward. The event, which took place just before most matriculants started writing trial final examinations, included performances from the Imbeleko Foundation’s acapella group, Kearsney’s gumboot dancers, a duet from St Mary’s, a symbolic tree-planting ceremony and a panel discussion on a variety of topical issues, such as teenage pregnancy. “There is immense shared symbolism around trees, so we planted a Natal mahogany. The isiXhosa name for this tree is uMkhulu or grandfather; and the isiZulu name is Umthunzini, meaning shade, so people will continue to share their own unique stories under the shade of this tree,” Phoka said. The event was a springboard to future Generation We projects. As the 2018 matriculants venture into their own new adult life cycles, future matric groups have already undertaken to continue exploring additional initiatives and to grow Generation We further.

Preparing 21st century leaders

In an era preoccupied with capitalism,4 the value of a social conscience and of social entrepreneurship is emphasised at Kearsney College. The aim is to develop young men who are conscious, connected and courageous custodians of the future world. The school’s change-maker initiative strives to educate boys about social and environmental entrepreneurship and foster a solutions-oriented mindset. Boys are stimulated to think about fundamental challenges facing society in the 21st century. The initiative seeks to promote sustainability-orientated leadership and to prompt thinking about social and environmental issues; in the context of living in a time of high uncertainty and unpredictability, with record levels of inequality, poverty and unemployment threatening the fabric of society.5 Kearsney’s annual Change-maker Day aims to demonstrate the concept of responsible business and the impact that entrepreneurship can have. The students are addressed by guest speakers who have merged ethics, faith and their value systems into their life’s work and, in doing so, have created their own legacy. The aim is for the boys to gain insight into entrepreneurship, its challenges and rewards. The Change-maker Day programme focuses on interacting with responsible business and “impact entrepreneurs”,6 social and environmental business models, population and planetary sustainability, businesses that use innovative technology to improve the world, as well as design and engineer products that solve social or environmental problems. Interactive activities demonstrate the maker movement,7 advances in the built environment, innovation in manufacturing and production, food security and becoming comfortable with software development and design.

Collaborative learning

Through this mindset of driving the importance of a social conscience through entrepreneurship, an online collaborative learning programme to assist underprivileged South African pupils has been established by one of Kearsney’s current school boys. After teaching mathematics as part of his community service to grades 8 and 9 students at a valley school, KwaNtebeni Comprehensive High School, Kearsney matriculant Yaaseen Mohamed created the website He said his community service at the school highlighted the dearth of resources and lack of access to quality education that is a reality for so many in South Africa. After taking Harvard Business School’s online course on “Entrepreneurship in emerging markets”,9 he realised that South Africa’s institutional void is in the education sector. Mohamed’s concept of came to fruition as a possible solution. allows high school students to ask any questions they have with regard to their homework, schoolwork or problems that they are stuck with, which will be answered by other students.

Learning peer-to-peer style

“The problem with Googling your questions is that the answers provided are never in the same methods and style that we use in the classroom, and often don’t correspond with the South African curriculum,” Mohamed says. “With Colearn, students get help from other students who are doing or have recently done the same unit of study. Students can also begin a discussion on a certain course topic.” Mohamed believes that the problem generally with education in South Africa isn’t the content, but often access to it. Anyone with access to the internet can make use of Colearn, which is free to use. However, the current drawback is that not everyone has access to the internet, or data to use for school work, he says. His goal is to make it accessible to more people, hopefully in due course, with a sponsor network providing free data to the site, as well as to get local brands that target the youth to advertise on the site and support the initiative. Mohamed’s social entrepreneurship has seen him entered into the national Scooler10 competition. Scooler is a school entrepreneur movement that strives to create an entrepreneurial environment among schools, by challenging both government and businesses to stop talking about unemployment and to act to help create sustainable jobs. These entrepreneurial and collaborative peer projects, demonstrating a strong collective, youthful social conscience, augur well for the future of a united and prosperous society.

Sue Miles is Kearsney College’s media consultant.

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Category: Summer 2018

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