Traditional leader reaches out to unemployed youth

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Tzaneen - Limpopo's first female Shangaan traditional leader, Hosi Phyllia Nwamitwa, has turned her home into a training centre where young people from poor families are taught basic life skills.

Fifteen unemployed youth are currently attending daily classes at the Valoyi royal palace in Nwamitwa village outside Tzaneen as part of a R1.5-million programme.

The Fit for Life, Fit for Work youth empowerment programme is funded by the Ford Foundation.

In the next two years, it aims to help 300 young people to get jobs, further their studies or start their own businesses.

"Groups of 15 students are attending six-week courses at a time and receiving training on practical things, such as how to write CVs, business plans and application letters," said project manager Queen Makhubele.

She said the students attended career exhibitions and also learned life skills such as time management, positive thinking, goal setting and coping with fear, drug abuse and peer pressure.

The first group entered the programme in September and graduated last month. Already, two of them have found jobs while three have been accepted at tertiary institutions.

"Six of them want to become paramedics, so we have enrolled them at a local driving school. When they get their driver's licences, we will assist them to get admission at relevant institutions," said Makhubele.

One of the current students, Louis Shikweni, 25, is the third-born child in a family of six. His father has no work and his mother does odd jobs in town so that she can buy food for the family.

The young man passed matric in 2003 with a C in mathematics. His dream was to study actuarial science at the University of Cape Town. He heard about Fit For Life, Fit For Work on the radio.

"Joining the programme has changed the way I look at life. I thought my future was doomed. But now I am motivated and I have high hopes for the future," Shikweni said.

The youth empowerment programme was initiated by Hosi Nwamitwa and is supported by the Departments of Labour, Education, Public Works, Health and Social Development.

The rural initiative is modelled on the Etafeni project in Nyanga outside Cape Town. According to the project's website, some 80 percent of unemployed youth who join its empowerment programme find employment or start their own small businesses upon completion.