by: Amanda Luyenge
IkamvaYouth Co-founder, Joy Olivier has officially stepped down as Executive Director and after a long and extensive search, it is our great pleasure to introduce IkamvaYouth’s new Executive Director, Lungile Zakwe!
Lungile joins us from the Treatment Action Campaign, where she was the Chief Operations Officer and National Manager overseeing every aspect of the organisation. Before that, she worked with Accenture and Trialogue, amongst others. We are all extremely excited to have Lungile’s energy, enthusiasm, capacity and passion for education to the service of IkamvaYouth.
More about Lungi:
Q: Tell us us a bit about your background, where did you grow up?
A: For those who believe in star-signs, I’m a libra. I’m the youngest of three girls and I was a convincing tomboy. I was raised in Soweto, Diepkloof. I was a kid of the 90’s who enjoyed listening to Brenda Fassie, Roxette and Cyndi Lauper… Lol!
Q: How would you describe yourself as a kid? Is there anything you wish you had changed?
A: I was a very busy kid with a full schedule! I participated in everything at school and loved it. I wouldn’t have a changed a thing!! Not because it was perfect but because it was all a part of my life experience and it has made me who I am today. Grateful for the journey.
Q: Coming from a public health background, what do you think is the link between health and education?
A: There is an important relationship between education and health; education matters to health and vice versa. Good education gives you access to the knowledge economy; jobs, benefits including health insurance coverage, allows people to afford a healthier lifestyle etc. I’ve simplified it but the two speak to each other in profound ways.
Q: What challenges do you think face the youth of South Africa in townships?
A: Unemployment immediately springs to mind. Young people in the townships are sitting idle; so much talent is wasted because the system continues to fail them. Unemployment leads to serious loss of dignity and purpose which ultimately leads to challenging behaviour. With that said, it is important to remember that there are a great number of capable, eager, talented and ambitious youth that come from the townships; that will jump at various opportunities that come their way. I am one of them.
Q: What solutions has IkamvaYouth put in place to overcome these challenges in making sure the youth thrives?
A: The IY model is driven by the youth, for the youth and that in itself is powerful. The solutions organically come from the young people that participate in our after-school programme. More than 50% of IkamvaYouth alumni become volunteer tutors and mentors while they’re in tertiary, to pay-forward the help they received by supporting the next generation of learners to achieve similar success. Through peer-to-peer learning, role modeling what’s possible and strong relationships that provide psychosocial support, the Ikamvanites have achieved annual matric results of between 80 and 100% since 2005; with 50% of youth accessing tertiary education, and over 80% accessing post-school placements.As our motto goes, ikamva lisezandleni zethu (the future is in our hands)!
Q: You recently went on branch tours with the former Director, Joy, how was the experience?
A: It was a life-changing experience for me. I am so inspired by the team; learners and tutors at all 17 of our thriving branches across the country! Everyone was actively engaged and fully participated in the shaping of their futures. I witnessed and listened to the stories the learners openly shared about the real impact the programme has had on their lives. The branches are a safe space for the learners to learn, grow and support one another. The tutors who volunteer their time at our after school programme are real life superheroes! Also, Joy and I had a great time (working and playing) together! It was the best way to finalise our fruitful handover process.
Q: After meeting the learners and volunteers, what are your hopes for them?
A: I hope they continue to live in service and carry the spirit of paying it forward wherever they go in life. May they always strive to live their best lives. I wish everyone of them a fulfilling life.
Q: If you were given 20 seconds to share IY’s story, what would you say?
A: We provide a safe space for peer-to-peer learning to take place and equip young people to become change agents in their communities.
INTERESTING FUN FACTS ABOUT LUNGI:
- Her worst fear is: Is being paralysed by fear itself. I’m learning how to walk through the emotion of fear
- She has never: Lived in a more beautiful, dynamic, warm, inspiring, diverse, frustrating and funny but hopeful country like South Africa. We are generally a wonderful people notwithstanding Apartheid and state capture *sigh*
- She dreams of one day: Living in a world that prioritises true freedom for ALL. This includes but not limited to economic, political and spiritual freedoms for all of (wo)mankind.
- If she would be given an opportunity to spend a day with someone who has passed on, she would spend the day with: Those that have come before me; my Ancestors. As Maya Angelou aptly puts it, I stand as ten thousand. The beauty of this is that I don’t have to wait for one day, we all have access to this power if we so choose to access it. It’s that inner-voice. It’s that knowing. I’d spend the day with more than just one person, I’d have a party with these Giants!
- In her spare time, she enjoys: reading, dancing, drinking red wine and practising deep thinking (others may call it day-dreaming)
To contact Lungi, you can get her details here
Next level leadership coming up at IkamvaYouth
There are some big job ads being advertised at IkamvaYouth at the moment; the Executive Director role was advertised a few weeks ago, and we have just put out an internal and external call for applications for Chief Operating Officer. We thought this might raise some questions, and so are sharing some of the background behind these big changes in case people are interested.
In January, Joy (our co-founder and director since 2003!) resigned, with 6 months’ notice. After 15 years with the organisation, she believes it’s more than time for new leadership and fresh perspectives to take the organisation to the next level. IkamvaYouth has become a big organisation over the last four years especially; with over 60 full time staff members, 17 branches, hundreds of partners and thousands of learners and tutors. The budget has also grown significantly, and the organisation is fortunate to be supported by a diverse group of committed supporters, both locally and internationally, and across sectors, including foundations, corporates and government. IkamvaYouth has also recently entered into a ten-year partnership agreement with the Department of Basic Education, and is looking forward to this collaboration, which will achieve far-reaching impact.
Yasmin (our COO, and previously finance manager, who has been with IY for four years) had to relocate to her home country, Ghana, at the end of last year, as her husband had new exciting work that side, and her family wanted to spend more time with their twin babies. As IkamvaYouth works virtually on a daily basis (our
head office is split between Pretoria and Cape Town, and our branches are in five different provinces), we have been able to continue with Yas working remotely for this first quarter. However, while it has worked very well, it is obviously not ideal to have the COO out of the country most of the time, and so while we are heavy hearted to say goodbye to Yas, we are also thrilled that she’ll be continuing the important work of promoting access to quality education and changing lives through the very impressive work being done at Ashesi University in Ghana.
The ED recruitment process is well underway, with interviews happening in the coming weeks, and we plan to have made an offer in time for our new director to participate in the final interviews for the new COO. Yas will be available for a comprehensive hand-over to her successor, also as Joy is with IY until mid July, there will be plenty of time for onboarding, orientation and handover to the new leadership. We are extremely fortunate to have a very committed board of directors, comprising experienced and smart individuals (please see link to IY Board Members here), who are driving the very rigorous and comprehensive recruitment process for the ED.
IkamvaYouth embarked on organisation-wide conversations about transformation last year, and we are committed to ensuring that all levels of the organisation are both diverse and representative of the communities we serve. We are very excited about welcoming our new colleagues, and to learning from them as they bring outside experience and perspectives into a strong organisation!
Fresh, Fun and forward thinking
Diepsloot hosts a leadership workshop for learners
On the 10th of March 2018 the IkamvaYouth Diepsloot branch held its first leadership workshop, facilitated by the founder of Bhekizenzo Foundation Mrs Phindile Ndlovu. Bhekizenzo Foundation works with government and other organisations to empower township and rural youth. The Foundation provides leadership, self-development and job preparedness workshops. Keeping with one of IkamvaYouths’ value of collaboration the Diepsloot branch saw the Bhekizenzo foundation as ideal for its career guidance sessions.
The workshop had a good attendance as learners from all the feeder schools in and around Diepsloot made a showing. The participation was also encouraging as learners seemed to have questions and eager to share their goals. All the activities that were partaken in were a step towards helping learners create their vision boards. These were collages designed to help learners envision the future they want to have.
Diepsloot learners Neo and Sivikele were one of the few learners who had the opportunity to present their vision boards. These learners stood out as they did not fail to mention how education would impact their dreams/visions. The IkamvaYouth vision is to change lives through education, tutors and staff alike were more than impressed to see learners share in our vision. We as the IkamvaYouth team can only hope that these leaners also share in one of our core values of paying it forward.
In the feedback part of the session, the learners thanked the facilitator for making time to engage with them through the workshop. It is always encouraging when efforts made by a tutor, mentor, facilitator or staff member are appreciated by the learners. IkamvaYouth has made a commitment to make an impact and when we see our work being appreciated we feel that this core value is achieved.
Class of 2017 with parents
It is IkamvaYouth’s custom to take time to analyse our journey every year, to reflect on what we did right and improvements to be made, to report to our stakeholders and the community we provide services to, and so this means dedicating a day and bringing all the parties involved and giving them feedback through an Open Day.
On the 20th of January IkamvaYouth Mamelodi branch held its annual Matric Day and Open Day, the event served as the official opening the year, and gave feedback on how the matric class of 2017 performed. Some of the organisations that contribute to the growth and sustainability of the organisation and the Mamelodi branch were invited.
Matric learner of the year (Archibald Letsoalo), who will be pursuing a Degree in Education at Free State University.
The event began at 09:00, with the Branch Coordinator (Neo Rakoma) welcoming the attendees and giving a brief introduction and overview on the purpose and significance of the day, she was then followed by the Branch Intern (Tokelo Hlagala), who gave an overview of the organisation’s model, which is basically the underlying principles and a framework which governs the programmes offered by the organisation, moreover he emphasized the importance of all parties working together in order to ensure that the learners receive ideal results, and this meant parents taking strides such as coming to the branch to analyse if their children are performing well, and if they are not, then what measures can be undertaken, by the parent, the learner and the organisation
Tutor of the year (Tshegofatso Sebata)
An address was also given by Tshegofatso Sebata who is both a tutor at the branch, and an alumni of the organisation, she shared her experiences on how the organisation helped her throughout her academic voyage, and also gave an overview of her transition from learner to tutor, her address was followed by that of another volunteer tutor, Piet Sathekge who specializes in the commerce subjects(Accounting, Economics).
Some of the learners that achieved Bachelor Passes
The attendees were also entertained with music, poetry, and some ice breakers in between the program. We had a motivational talk by Pastor Malinga from Themba Foundation. Mr Patrick Mashanda, the IkamvaYouth Programmes Manager addressed the attendees, giving a review of the matric results that the branch has achieved, and of the organisation at large, he further reiterated strides that must be undertaken to ensure that we build great societies, free from social ills, and that can be achieved through education. There was a prize giving and photo session following his address, which was was led by Miss Naledi Mokopakgosi, the Mamelodi Branch Assistant, and Unathi Mbanya from CCBSA. Several prizes and certificates were bestowed to learners for certain achievements, such as, learner of the year, best learner in English, and Matric learner of the year.
We ended off the day with a library dedication to Sonia Tibane, who was one of the dedicated volunteers in the Mamelodi branch following her sad passing in 2017, which was a great loss to not only her family and friends, the organisation, but also to the community at large. Sonia was also a dedicate scholar and was passionate about book hence the dedication.
IkamvaYouth learners from Chesterville
The idea of a rainbow if you’ve never seen it before, isn’t as beautiful as once you see it. The image of more than 7 colours in one space screams chaos more than beauty. That’s the same thing that happens when one tells people about IkamvaYouth; we are an organisation that brings together learners of different schools and grades and offer them academic and social assistance, above all else. We also provide a space for these learners to be able to assist each other as much as possible.
We live in a society that is inevitably divided by class, which in most cases motivates how we interact and treat one another. Same applies with the learners we work with. As much as they may share same geographical spaces, but some of their defining backgrounds differ which subconsciously interpret their approach. It is only normal for one to expect to see a lot of diversity and ‘clicks’ formed based on the type of schools our learners come from. Teenagers tend to feel more comfortable when they are within their norms, but what one witnesses once they enter an IkamvaYouth session is like seeing the rainbow for the first time after a stormy day.
I once had a conversation with a colleague of mine from the branch, we were talking about how beautiful it is to see learners that we know societally would have never even exchanged hellos or came across each other’s paths and yet there they are inside our branch assisting one another and forming friendships. It is such a great image to see our learners breaking whatever walls and boundaries put by society and seeing each other as brothers and sisters before everything else.
As new learners are pouring in at our different branches, I can’t help but smile and feel the utmost joy knowing that they are about to meet some of the most incredible young people of their age, who are only defined by the brighter future and being each other’s keepers (Peer to peer support).
By: Zamile Hlongwana ( Chesterville BA)