Excitement, happiness, joyfulness that was the feeling of the two girls, Lorna Marenene and Thembela Gibson after they found out that they won two tickets each for the Janet Jackson concert in Grand West. Lorna and Thembela were entered on Janet Jackson 20 under 20 years old extraordinary people competition where Janet Jackson planed on meeting, honouring, and recognising up to 20 young people under the age of 20 for their extraordinary contributions to their local communities in each city she visits. Lorna and Thembela were selected to be part of this group because of their extraordinary contribution to their school life, IkamvaYouth and their community, Makhaza.
Lorna is a self-motivated and conscientious person and always willing to get involved. She organised, highly motivated to accept responsibility. Lorna joined IkamvaYouth in 2010, since then she has shown extreme commitment to the homework and tutoring sessions, and her academic marks have improved dramatically through this commitment. The commitment that Lorna shows in the organisation, indicate how she love being part of the community development. Besides her academic success, she is learner representative at the Makhaza Branch of IkamvaYouth in 2010 and 2011 and part of the Branch Committee. This involved her in the decision-making processes of IkamvaYouth and fostered her natural leadership skills.
Thembela is someone who always willing to learn get involve and not afraid of the new challenges. She always believes that a change can be done especial when it comes to South African education. Being a leader is what motivates her, because it’s not about leading the group of people but being the role model of that particular group you leading. She has been involved in the IkamvaYouth programme at the beginning of this year. Ever since she joins the programme, her extra ordinary working being part of the program not only motivates the tutors but also the learners of the organisation.
The concert took place at Grandwest arena. The tickets that the girls won also allowed then to meet and greet Janet Jackson at the backstage. The girls got the opportunity to greet and take a photo with Janet Jackson. “For the first time in my life I watched an international singer live on stage” Lorna said. Thembela said if it wasn’t for IkamvaYouth she would never got such an opportunity.
Well done girls!
Khan academy is an online learning tool created by Salman Khan in the United States (www.khanacademy.org). While it provides educational content for a variety of subjects, its primary focus is mathematics. Put simply, when a learner “does” Khan Academy, they work their way through a series of exercise modules, beginning with the simplest problems in math, like 2 + 5, and progressing until the learners are working on algebra, trigonometry, and even calculus problems. The idea behind Khan Academy is that when a learner reaches a module covering material they find difficult or have not encountered before, they can watch a video that teaches them how to do it. In this way, they can effectively self-learn their way through the entire school curriculum.
A couple of months ago, I approached Liesel Bakker – the branch coordinator at Ikamva Youth, Makhaza – to see whether we might pilot Khan Academy with some of their learners. Ikamva Youth, as I rapidly discovered, is a “can-do” kind of place. Within weeks we had a computer lab installed, and today we are five weeks into the pilot.
In keeping with Khan Academy tradition, I have put together a short youtube video to keep our sponsors (and you!) up-to-date with what we are doing:
A special thanks to Liesel, Zukile, Thembi and Joy for providing the learners, the space, and the necessary support to make this happen; to David and Elaine Potter for your generous sponsorship and encouragement; to the US Embassy for contributing towards the lab upgrade; and last but not least, to the coaches – Unathi, Yanga, Mandise, and Bekho – for your continued commitment to, and enthusiasm for, the project.
And lest I leave out our most important participants, congratulations to our pioneering grade nines who have steadfastly stuck with the program and blown us away with their mathematical ability.
One pencil, one pad of paper, go! Khan Academy in action
Of Mice and Monitors – Installing the new lab
Let’s be frank, Black Tuesday came and went for the majority of IkamvaYouth without much fanfare as the secrecy bill passed through parliament. A few Ikamvanites wore black, tweeted or re-tweeted on a selection of the events of the day but – by in large – the day was much like any other with immediate concerns such as passing exams and more mundane everyday issues taking priority.
We can safely assume that this scene was repeated throughout township and rural communities across the country and perhaps Steven Friedman has identified one of the key reasons here. Unfortunately, this lack of interest does not mean there will be no serious repercussions for township and rural communities and therefore Ikamvanites (as Friedman points out). There are also major areas of concern in Pierre De Vos’s account of the technical aspects of the Bill and the powers it gives to government to guard and classify information. Given too that Desmond Tutu refers to the Bill as an “insult to all South Africans” and Jay Naidoo issues warnings against “a dangerous and paranoid direction for our country” it is only wise to reflect on the issues ourselves and how they relate to our own positions.
We’ve said it often that IkamvaYouth strives not only to achieve great impact in what we do, but also strives to be very deliberate in the way we do it. As you know, IkamvaYouth operates as a grassroots organisational democracy underpinned by a set of core IkamvaYouth values that seek inclusive decision-making, collective ownership and consensus wherever possible. IkamvaYouth flips the traditional hierarchical top-down approach on its head with branch representatives (including beneficiaries) hiring/firing branch coordinators and branch coordinators hiring/firing regional coordinators (effectively their bosses in both instances). The IkamvaYouth board, in addition to its legal and fiduciary duties, acts primarily as custodian of the IkamvaYouth values (much like a constitutional court) and at all levels, stakeholders are invited to offer input to meetings when decisions will impact directly on their circumstances.
The upshot of working in this way means that a branch of IkamvaYouth does not just work within a particular community but, more accurately, the branch ends up creating a community and it’s a community anchored in and centred around IkamvaYouth’s organisational values. For this to work though, and for any democratic community to work, we have to have access to as much information as possible or we will make poor decisions and/or disengage from the process. What’s more, as Parker Palmer helpfully points out, democracy is fundamentally a matter of the human heart and the great democratic journey is a continual alignment and re-alignment of our individual and collective hearts with the core democratic values. This is the only way we’re able to find the “courage to create a politics worthy of the human spirit”.
In the IkamvaYouth context, ready access to relevant information for informed and engaged decision-making means a transparency on budgetary issues and sensitive topics like salaries. Everyone at IkamvaYouth knows what everyone else is earning and conflicts are discussed openly and honestly trusting the process that collective wisdom guided by the IkamvaYouth values will continue to move us in the direction we wish to go. Like any good democracy, IkamvaYouth is invariably a little messy on occasion and sometimes meetings can be tense. We are also often less efficient than the authoritarian alternative (except with regards to social impact) but the upside in terms of collective buy-in, pride and ownership is significant and the gains are immeasurable in helping to create community.
The problem with the Information Bill (or at least one of the problems) is that it introduces a new barrier to creating the kind of community we long for in South Africa (and we’ve got more than enough barriers already). It makes it harder for us to be engaged active citizens even assuming that there may be some highly-specific pieces of information justifiably held by the state. The members of parliament who voted for the Bill showed little sign that they held every aspect of the Bill up against the light of the values enshrined in the constitution or gave serious thought to the constitutional principal of transparent governance. They also showed little appreciation of the life-lesson that we can’t be in real community when we keep too many secrets regardless of how honourable our intentions at the outset. In short, it feels like our democratic hearts are unaligned and it is instructive that both Pierre De Vos and Jay Naidoo (above) invoke the issue of “trust” as core to what’s at stake.
Experience has taught us that a necessary condition for each of us to remain active, responsible, democratic IkamvaYouth Citizens is for us to have access to as much information as possible in making properly informed and constructive decisions. It is a vital component of our desire to remain rooted in our values and in authentic community with each other. Similarly then, for us to be active, responsible, democratic citizens sharing our lives together in this country the same must surely apply. We need access to as much information as possible to remain an engaged citizenry and to check how the country’s democratic heart aligns with our treasured democratic values. Democracy is not a passive past-time and we’re going to have to work continuously and exceptionally hard to keep it but since it’s a matter of the heart it will bring us great meaning, sometimes pain and often life.
As Ikamvanites, we have an opportunity to be an example to the rest of the country of a functioning democratic grassroots community in our own small way. We can’t work on healing our hearts and aligning our values without also working on healing the social and economic injustices of the past which is why the ‘what’ we do and social impact remains so important but it is ultimately also the ‘way’ that we do things that will determine whether we remain active and engaged and in authentic community with each other and our country.
Highly Recommended Reading: Healing the Heart of Democracy: Creating a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit by Parker Palmer. Good democratic soul-food.
Our Masiphumelele students have been invited to participate to the eMzantsi Carnival. The theme, this year, is focused on sustainable development. All of the costumes have been made from recycled materials. Youth will parade with 800 other young people from all over the South Peninsula Communities. It will be a time to celebrate our cultural diversities.
Save the 3rd of December to watch and encourage the Youth at the Parade on the Kommetjie Road. All information for time, location on their website: http://www.emzantsi.org.za/
The Nyanganites experienced a day not to be forgotten, after hearing about the facts of drug abuse and a talk from Delcia, a recovered addict who spoke about her addiction and how she got help and stopped using. The learners have shared how badly drugs have messed up their families and communities.
Nyanga is notorious for its drug abuse and alcohol abuse and we are faced with learners dropping out of school due to this problem. We have learners who have brothers and sisters highly addicted to drugs and this workshop helped us as staff and tutors to understand better what help we can give to the learners affected by drug abuse.
A big Thank You goes to Call The Rain for running the workshop for us. Call The Rain is an organisation that specialises in storytelling. In their workshops, people share personal stories. The hope is that people will hear the message in the story and consider changing. Call the Rain is clear that they can never make the change for others; that is peoples’ own decision.
Thanks to Sabrina for making sure our Life Skills workshops are going well.