IkamvaYouth (IY) is interested to hear that the South African government hopes to implement a mandatory one year programme for all tertiary graduates. All students will be expected to finish twelve months of community service in a field related to their studies, the ANC announced <insert relevant date>.

As an organisation that relies entirely on the volunteerism and goodwill of students to tutor and mentor high school youth, IkamvaYouth believes community service works best when people offer their help freely. IY would like to see many graduates involved in community development, but does not think an extra year after university or college makes as much sense as working while studying. Joy Oliver, IkamvaYouth’s  Director, believes flexibility and willingness are crucial when using graduates to carry additional workload. She has noticed that volunteers who are forced to participate have a high dropout rate from programmes and do not have the same impact as students who step up to make a difference through their own volition.

“IkamvaYouth tutors and mentors achieve excellent results because they choose to spend the time that could be used for their own studies, leisure or income generation to instead enable learners to pull themselves and each other out of poverty,” says Joy, who has seen hundreds of students volunteer since IkamvaYouth began in 2003. “It is because they care so much, and are such great role models, that between 85-100% of the learners they tutor and mentor pass matric, and 70% of these go on to access tertiary education.”

Government is expected to introduce community service programmes by 2016, with the belief that students will benefit from the work experience one year of work affords. IkamvaYouth currently runs off the services of hundreds of volunteers, many of whom tutor while studying at university or college, and proposes instead that these community service programmes are integrated into tertiary studies, as an experiential learning opportunity. In addition, IkamvaYouth proposes that the funds allocated to these initiatives are instead used as incentives for committed, effective student volunteerism. Receiving these incentives in the form of funds for registration fees, textbooks, transport and accommodation while studying will be a great support to students in overcoming the financial challenges that can lead to dropout from tertiary studies.