The Soshanguve North Connect project is based in Soshanguve, a township in the north of Tshwane; it is a programme that works with young people in the local high schools and focuses on empowerment, mentorship, life and leadership skills. Various tools are employed to engage the learners mainly from Amogelang Secondary School as well as Thakgalang Secondary School.
The relationship with the schools stemmed from engagement with the City of Tshwane which had previously identified schools through which it advanced the Sustainability agenda; thereafter, the local councilor connected us to the principals of the schools in question. After further conversation with the principals, it was made clear that learners in the school face a myriad of social challenges, one of which is a lack of support in dealing with these struggles. A programme was then developed to create solutions and to respond in a way that is accommodating to all the learners in the schools given their age groups and performance levels in certain subjects.
This engagement ranges from book clubs, job shadow days, career days, one-on-one mentorship, tutoring and weekly meetings at school and on Saturdays with a wide network of young people in other schools in the Tshwane area; these meetings focus on the empowerment of the learners in leadership and taking ownership of their spaces, whether their school, homes or greater community. There are various mentors from diverse backgrounds who participate on these projects and volunteer their time. The objective is to have young people who are actively engaged within their communities but are also socially conscious while also performing well in their school work.
The learners also have various opportunities of advancement open to them where they get to attend conferences and leadership camps to aid in the advancement of their growth. This also provides them the opportunity to engage with learners from other schools in Tshwane and across South Africa. Amogelang has seen a change in the final matric results because of the engagement with the youth collective and the mentorship programmes – with an improvement of the matric pass rate and level of quality passes. The school is yielding learners who are not only socially conscious but are also in a better position to maturely navigate a new environment when they begin to study in university or pursue entrepreneurial endeavours. The mentorship continues post-matric as well as the learners require. They are also encouraged to pay it forward by mentoring the next intake of learners in their school.
I serve as the coordinator along with some friends and colleagues – we initiated the conversation with the municipality as well as with the principals to propose this engagement the schools. We also serve the community by engaging with the parents of the learners involved and assist them where we can in providing social assistance to them as well. Anyone who would like to participate in this programme can get in touch with Nontuthuzelo Nikiwe via the Tshwane Hub. Other ways to get involved is to donate unused books, learning materials and even clothing to be donated to the learners and their families if one cannot give of their time.