As we sit, exhausted by a 3 week winter school, we cannot help but smile.

Since Susan Alexander began the Careers Indaba (winter school) in 2008 it has become an annual event at all 5 IkamvaYouth branches. This year 500 learners across the country were engaged in these 2 weeks programmes. At Masiphumelele 68 learners attended the library everyday to discover new information, meet new people and to explore themselves and their futures.

IkamvaYouth has the primary goal of enabling youth living in townships to access education. Thus the winter school had to squeeze in some tutoring time, much to the disgruntlement of the learners. Luckily a full-scale revolt was evaded by the dedication of our volunteers who orchestrated literacy and numeracy fundamental sessions and managed to make learning fun!

Or maybe their discontent was quelled by the wide range of exciting and novel workshops and excursions; tai chi, computer blogging, drumming leadership, yoga, drama, creative writing, dance, debating and many more. A wonderful day was spent rock pooling under blue skies in at Cape Point and at St James with Save our Seas Shark Centre. The budding journalists were bused off to Pinelands for a crash course in magazine production. Read about this project at www.livityafrica.com. We also made a trip to University of Western Cape for a Fun Day for all 3 Western Cape branches.

The daily speakers were amazing, providing real life testimonies about hard work and commitment, as well as developing learner’s knowledge about career and study options. One visitor of special note was Vice Chancellor of the University of the Free State and acclaimed writer Jonathan Jansen. Mr Jansen gave an inspiring talk to the learners, which was followed by a lively discussion about education in South Africa. He even offered the Ikamvanites 5 full scholarships to the University of the Free State. He must have been impressed!

The winter school is hugely significant for the underlying impact that it has on students: social skill development; productive engagement throughout the holidays; time to explore ones own interests; meeting and talking to peers; learning to appreciate volunteers; learning to believe in yourself. A Grade 10 learner commented: ‘I have had the best time of my life here and I will always carry this memory with me’.

When everyday you are faced with the issues of poverty you have little time to think about yourself or to dream about your future. When these learners do take time to dream they do so within the confines of their self and society’s expectations of them. This mindset makes these expectations a reality and contributes to maintaining the cycle of wasted potential and poverty.

The winter schools give a chance for young people to think outside of these boundaries and to gain access to information that inspires them to dream far beyond them. IkamvaYouth is focused on harnessing these potentials and with the help of Masiphumelele Library they are achieving this.  

On the last day of the winter school we held a drumming workshop conducted by the Rhythm Workshop (www.rhythmworkshop.co.za). I saw the vibration of a room full of 80 eager, excited and inspired faces, grinning uncontrollably as they followed the drum beats. It is times like this that make me love my job! Everyone who contributed to making the Careers Indaba a success helped to put smiles on faces and to inspire young minds.   

For more information about IkamvaYouth and volunteer opportunities please contact Zoe Mann 079 885 4388 or for information about Masiphumelele Library please contact Susan Alexander 083 476 2709

Zoe Mann