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Youth embrace tomorrow

 
August 8, 2013: Young Tshwane residents were key to a conversation held with Bill and Chelsea Clinton, as well as Professor Njabulo Ndebele and another six African change-makers. They brought up education and overcoming challenges – fitting in neatly with the Tshwane Vision 2055.

On the Embrace Tomorrow panel: Professor Njabulo S Ndebele, President Bill Clinton, Chelsea Clinton, Dr James Mwangi and Strive MasiyiwaOn the Embrace Tomorrow panel: Professor Njabulo S Ndebele, President Bill Clinton, Chelsea Clinton, Dr James Mwangi and Strive Masiyiwa

Young leaders and other activists took part in a ground-breaking conversation in the City of Tshwane when they spoke directly to Bill Clinton, his daughter Chelsea, and Professor Njabulo S Ndebele about issues affecting them.

Youth is a key element in Tshwane Vision 2055 as the City believes its younger residents – who make up a significant proportion of the region’s population – will be the flag bearers and reap the benefits of the city of the future. It is thus critical that plans are put in place now, so that they do not inherit the challenges of today.

In putting the youth first, Executive Mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa announced a multimillion-rand skills development and entrepreneurship programme targeting 10 000 young people. Called Tshepo 10 000 and with a total value of R1.8-billion, the programme is aimed at helping to eradicate youth unemployment in Tshwane. It is expected that there will be an intake of 2 500 participants each quarter of this financial year, totalling 10 000 youths. Participants will undergo rigorous and intensive training at the University of Pretoria and the Tshwane University of Technology that will give them the skills and expertise

Indeed, education was one of the most pressing issues raised in the Embrace Tomorrow conversation – the education of young girls, the passing on of skills, the quality of education provided in the classrooms, and the need for there to be jobs once young people leave school or tertiary institutions. These and many other topics formed the basis of the dialogue, which was held as part of the Embrace Tomorrow campaign.

Embrace Tomorrow is about getting people involved in making a difference. The campaign is being run by the Clinton Foundation, and is supported by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory. Clinton, the former president of the United States, now runs the foundation, which focuses on health issues and the effects of inequality. He and his daughter have been on a road trip around South Africa to visit various foundation projects. Acclaimed writer and academic Ndebele is also the chair of the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory.

Vision

It fitted in neatly with Tshwane Vision 2055, which is an articulation of the future and sets out a bold vision that will propel the City to be liveable, resilient, and inclusive. It also reflects the aspirations not only of the region’s residents but of all South Africans as outlined in the National Development Plan 2030 vision. Tshwane Vision 2055 details various “game changing” interventions and strategic actions for all stakeholders that will ensure that all its residents experience tangible socio-economic and spatial transformation in their lifetime.

In the Embrace Tomorrow conversation, six African change-makers joined the Clintons and Ndebele on stage: Zethu Ngceza, external relations co-ordinator of the Ubuntu Education Fund; Dr James Mwangi, chief executive of Key Equity Bank; Shaka Sisulu, founder of Cheesekids for Humanity; Kave Bulambo, director of Women Across Borders; Hadeel Ibrahim, founding executive director of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation; and Strive Masiyiwa, founder and chair of Econet Wireless.

Held at the Pretoria Show Grounds on 7 August, the conversation involved those present – on stage and in the audience – as well as those watching the event live in the digital sphere (or as Clinton noted, “in cyberspace”). The discussion was streamed via the Clinton Foundation Facebook page.

Acting mayor and Speaker of the City of Tshwane, Morakane Mosupyoe-Letsholo, welcomes the gatheringActing mayor and Speaker of the City of Tshwane, Morakane Mosupyoe-Letsholo, welcomes the gathering

And Tshwane, being a youthful city, came to the party – in the spirit of adding the voice of young people to the discourse for change on issues that directly affect them, the City invited a diverse pool of youth to listen and to questions. And, of course, they were not shy to give their opinions.

What seemed like a simple question from an audience member, Trevor Tshweu, on the greatest obstacle to creating an equal education system, awakened many diverse views. Answering the question, Sisulu said the problem of unequal education in South Africa stemmed from the country‘s apartheid past. “The big elephant in the room is that our teachers predominantly come from a base of inferior education themselves – and their teachers were also deliberately provided with an inferior education. So what you have is a distilled sense of quality education going down to our young people,” said Sisulu.

Intervention

He argued that the problem went deeper than just how the curriculum was managed: “We need extraordinary interventions, maybe as one option we could get teachers from foreign countries whose standards of education are a higher than ours.”

Clinton added his voice to the issue, saying that South Africa and Africa could take examples from other countries that had excelled in education. “One of the countries that have made progress in education is Finland. You cannot get a job in that country if you do not graduate in the top 10 percent of your class at university.”

Costa Rica also had a successful education system because it invested a fortune in education, he pointed out.

Also speaking on education, Ndebele commended poor South African schools that were out-performing some well-to-do schools. “You see, this has to do with certain fundamentals – a well-run school, good teaching not only from a curriculum point of view, the care that is shown by teachers and the moral support from the community. We always have to visualise the school from the context of a community set-up.”

Masiyiwa’s concern was that many children still did not have access to basic education. “61 million children in the world are out of school, 43 percent of those are in Africa and 60 percent of these are girls.” He said NGOs like the Clinton Foundation and many others had a responsibility to work together with governments of countries to ensure that they made a meaningful contribution.

Education and jobs

Insightful thoughts also came from Ibrahim. “The more educated you are in Africa, the less likely you are to find a job, it is a shocking static,” she said.

Ibrahim felt that there was a disconnect between the education system and the labour market. “We do not match the education system and the labour market. Look at countries like Tunisia – you have the highest education rates but no employment and when you do that [you have] an extremely frustrated and angry society who can’t find jobs. What it critical therefore is a relationship between what jobs there are, not now but in 15 years and what skills are needed.”

Another question was asked of the panel via Twitter: “What is the most solvable problem of this generation?” Clinton responded: “No one has to die of Aids anymore and no HIV-positive mother has to give birth to an HIV-positive child.”

HIV/Aids is a subject close to Clinton’s heart. The story of Ncgeza inspired him to continue with HIV/Aids intervention through his foundation. Ngceza had to raise her two siblings after both her parents died of HIV-related complications. They lived in a cardboard shack without any source of income. Her life took a dramatic turn when she met a counsellor from the NGO, Ubuntu Education Fund, which helped her continue her schooling. Today she holds a degree from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and works for the NGO as the external co-ordinator. She also has ambitions to enrol for a postgraduate degree.

Clinton invited Ncgeza to speak at the Clinton Global Initiatives of semi-annual meetings on child-headed households in 2007.

In her answer, Chelsea Clinton said no child should die of diarrhoea. It was a shocking statistic that in Africa more than 70 000 children died a year of dehydration cause by diarrhoea. “The same mechanism we used to fight HIV can be used to combat diarrhoea.”

A third response came from Masiyiwa: “No child must go to bed hungry. We have the skills and land in Africa, the technology, and the energy. 80 percent of the food we consume is produced by women, who are smallholder farmers, so we need to empower and mainstream those.”

Making a change

When the time for schoolchildren to ask questions arrived, they were ready to shoot. Mathew Jenna from King Edward VII asked as a young South African committed to his country, what practical advice the panel had for people like him to make a change in his country. Chelsea Clinton advised Mathew to look for something to do that inspired him, that he would never tire of doing every day.

Her father pointed out to Mathew that he was extremely fortunate to be able to ask that question as many people never had the opportunity to think about this in their lifetime because they had no choice. “You have a choice, take some time to think about that. You are still young and you have many opportunities – but only you can ask answer that questions,” said Clinton.

Kimberly Malope, an 11-year old who described herself as a motivational speaker from Laerskool Van Riebeek Park, had a question ready for Clinton. “Mr Clinton I have taken it upon myself to travel around the country to educate young girls about the use of sanitary pads, hygiene and HIV/Aids. So Mr Clinton, how can you help me to make my dreams come true and how to build South Africa?”

In response, Clinton joked: “Well first of all, I was thinking I should get you to help me.” However, he added more seriously: “We will be in touch. We would like to help you on your course.”

Youth are key to Tshwane, and in drawing up its Vision, young people were one of the main targets. Platforms were set up for the City to meet youth representatives, among others. Residents, students, the business community, social organisations, developmental planners, academics and politicians all had their say.

Tshepo 10 000 is one major game-changer. Participants will undergo rigorous and intensive training at the University of Pretoria and the Tshwane University of Technology that will give them the skills and expertise needed to tender for procurement projects valued at R1.1-billion – 25 percent of the City’s total capital expenditure budget. Tshwane is conscious of the three key challenges confronting the country – poverty, unemployment and inequality, says the City.

Its plans resonate with the National Youth Policy of 2009-2014, which aims to build “an integrated, holistic and sustainable youth development, conscious of the historical imbalances and current imbalances and current realities, to build a non-sexist, non-racist, democratic South Africa in which young people and their organisations not only enjoy and contribute to their full potential in the social, economic and political spheres of life, but also recognise and develop their responsibilities to build a better life for all”.