Less than two weeks after being heralded in the Minister of Basic Education’s Budget Speech, IkamvaYouth’s head office in Makhaza, Khayelitsha was petrol-bombed.
“I thought I was going to die” said Mpumzi Klaas, an ex-learner who has been volunteering as a tutor and mentor since 2007.
“We had just taken our learners on an excursion to Ratanga Junction to enjoy Freedom Day, and five minutes after they left the office someone threw stones and fire through the window, and the recently-donated Answer Series study guides caught alight.” Mpumzi and Sinethemba Lutango, another ex-learner-turned volunteer who’s currently studying at Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), hid under the tables and called the police.
Thankfully they managed to escape unharmed, but were very shocked upon their return to the office this morning where they found that the premises had been further attacked and completely destroyed. The roof is burnt; the computers have melted; all equipment, records and resources reduced to ashes.
IkamvaYouth is a non-partisan, non-governmental organisation that was established in 2003 in Makhaza with the objective of enabling disadvantaged youth to pull themselves out of poverty and into university and employment through peer-to-peer learning and support. The programme’s success (87-100% matric pass rate since 2005 and over 70% of learners accessing tertiary for the past three years) has led to the model’s replication in five townships in three provinces, and numerous accolades include winning the Mail and Guardian / Southern Africa Trust Drivers of Change award in 2010.
IkamvaYouth’s office space is availed to the organisation free of charge by the municipality. In addition to destroying the office, the attackers threw stones into the Nazeema Isaacs Library and torched the adjoining Zimele Pre-Primary school. “We just don’t understand why anyone would do this”, said Monica Nabuya, the principal of Zimele.
Mrs Bidla, who has two grandchildren in grades 9 and 10, says “I cannot begin to express how badly I have been hurt by this. As a parent, I just cannot understand how anyone can do such a bad thing to an organisation that helps our children. IkamvaYouth has kept our children off the streets and helped them focus on their studies.” She has suggested a parents’ meeting “so that we can protect the future of our children”.
“We are trying to free people from poverty and yet on Freedom Day our office was burnt. This means that people do not understand what Freedom Day stands for, and they do not understand that we’re trying to balance disparities and redress injustice”, said Thobela Bixa, an IkamvaYouth board member and ex-learner who’s currently doing his MA in Chemistry at the University of Cape Town (UCT).
Mrs Sobethwa whose child is in grade 10 said “You do not expect something like this will happen to an organisation like IkamvaYouth… I believe that there is still hope… the name Ikamva sums it up, the organisation has a brighter future and more good things are going to happen. This is the time we have to stand up as community members and oppose this kind of behaviour”.
“I’m so hurt by all of this. I was looking forward to a great day of tutoring but only to come to this”, said Unathi Gcani, a grade 10 learner who joined Ikamva in 2011.
Unathi continued, “this is going to impact badly on our studies. I blame our community for all this because no one can come from another township to vandalise our resources, how do they expect us to pass when they burn our Answer Series booklets? Against all of this, I am still committed to Ikamva because I have seen the impact it has made to previous learners.”
Makhaza Branch Coordinator