Thousands of high schoolers change the nation
The efforts of over 3600 grade 10 learners from and all nine provinces to improve their schools, their communities and their nation were celebrated at the Youth Citizens Actions Programme (YCAP) National Championships held on Saturday (28 June 2014) in Durban, KwaZulu Natal.
“YCAP is an annual competition through which grade 10 learners from high schools across the country create projects aimed at addressing issues which they have identified in their schools and communities. These issues range from drug abuse and teen pregnancy to food gardens and anti-litter campaigns,” explains Amanda Blankfield-Koseff, Founder and CEO of Empowervate, the NGO which powers the YCAP competition.
“Following a very difficult adjudication process, Wrenchville High School from the Northern Cape were named the 2014 National YCAP Champions and won R10000 towards the further implementation of their project which sought to raise awareness about the issue of rape. The the learners received branded bags and beanies and the best part of all was a surprise of mini-tablets for them to use for schoolwork and to further document their YCAP project.”
“Statutory rape which was identified as a significant issue at the school where “sugar daddies” pursue transactional relationships with schoolgirls. In order to increase awareness and combat the problem, the learners formed a Facebook group called STAR. They had learners from the school to sign a petition against rape, initiated a “walk a mile in her shoes” day where boys wore high heels to feel what women go through and also organized a silent protest where participants taped their mouths shut and marched through the John Taolo Gaetsewe district. Their group had made significant progress in the awareness of the problem and they have managed to start breaking down the stigma about the topic so that their fellow learners feel they can talk to the YCAP team about their experiences and together they can find solutions. Wrenchville School had also attended the 2013 National Championships with their drug abuse campaign which is still ongoing, showing how sustainable the programme is proving to be.
The runners up were Umlulama Senior Secondary School from KwaZulu Natal. Gangsterism and bullying are challenges that Umlulama Secondary School learners have to face everyday. With the aim of increasing awareness about these problems, the learners not only initiated a march and a beauty pageant fundraiser in the KwaZulu Natal community but also with the help from the Department of Education launched a workshop addressing the issues. KZN is the most active YCAP province and has been in the Top Three in the Nationals since the first year of YCAP in 2010.
In third place, Groenberg Secondary School from the Western Cape came through with their homework club to improve academic performance of their school. They managed to encourage learners to take an interest in school work through the club and grew the participants from 30 to 100 participants so far. The club is an ongoing programme.
The Great Effort award which encourages the team who have been inspirational went to Eastern Cape’s Isolomzi Senior Secondary School with their awareness campaign against faction fighting that is prevalent in this area where tribes antagonize one another. A learner was killed when he walked home from school and stumbled into another tribe’s area. The YCAP team organized a meeting with the tribal Chiefs, managed to get a community policing forum in action to give more people the power to confiscate weapons and organized communal gatherings and door-to-door campaigns, which have lowered the incidents of faction fighting.
The award for greatest participation of quality entries was tied between KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng.
The Deutsche Bank South Africa Foundation is Empowervate’s founding sponsor, having supported the YCAP Programme and Big Talk since the first youth dialogue in 2007. Latest sponsors UTi SA Mounties Division have given Empowervate room for expansion of the programme. The Department of Basic Education is the strategic and implementation partner since 2009, along with other non-profit organisations, partner NPO Heartlines and incubating NPO Afrika Tikkun.