IkamvaYouth equips learners from disadvantaged communities with the knowledge, skills, networks and resources to access tertiary education and/or employment opportunities once they matriculate. IkamvaYouth aims to increase the collective skill level of the population, to grow the national knowledge base, and to replicate success in more communities. A non-profit organisation (established in 2003 and formally registered in 2004) with branches in five provinces in South Africa, IkamvaYouth currently operates in the Western Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, North West and the Eastern Cape. While learners enroll at IkamvaYouth when they are in grades 9, 10 and 11, the programme's success is ultimately determined by the number of grade 12 learners who access tertiary institutions and/or employment-based learning opportunities when they matriculate. Currently fewer than 10% of South African youth access higher education (SAIRR, 2009) of which only a fraction come from township or rural communities.
The IkamvaYouth model draws from a large and growing pool of volunteers made up of students (from nearby universities) and local professionals. The organisation's sustainability is driven by ex-learners who gain entrance to tertiary institutions and return to tutor. More than half of the volunteers at longer-established branches are ex-learners and over 80% of the Khayelitsha management committee comprises ex-beneficiaries. IkamvaYouth thus provides the additional advantage of allowing ex-IkamvaYouth learners to be agents of change – from beneficiary to benefactor.
South African youth face many obstacles that perpetuate disadvantage. Most township schools produce learners whose academic performance is below grade level. Poor matric results and low awareness of post-school opportunities lead to high numbers of unemployed youth (estimated at over 60% in Khayelitsha). Most learners in township schools do not receive the skills development opportunities afforded their more privileged counterparts in the suburbs, including computer literacy and extra-mural activities. In addition to the difficulties that living in poverty and receiving a sub-standard education brings, many township youth are infected and/or affected by HIV/AIDS.
Each of IkamvaYouth's programmes address these obstacles in simple yet effective and measurable ways:
- Supplementary tutoring and Homework sessions enable learners to improve their grades
- Career guidance broadens learners' awareness of post-school opportunities
- Mentoring ensures that learners access these opportunities
- Computer literacy and access equips learners with essential skills and information
- The Media, Image and Expression programme affords opportunities for learners to express themselves creatively and assertively and build their self-esteem
- Health and Leadership programmes ensure HIV/AIDS, nutriton and broader health awareness and voluntary testing provides learners with the information and VCT services they need to manage their health
By participating in these programmes in afternoons after school, on Saturday mornings and during the school holidays, ikamvanites are empowered to take their futures into their own hands.