On Tuesday the 28th of June 2016, MEC for Human Settlements and Public Works, Honourable Mr Ravigasen Ranganathan Pillay in collaboration with the Mayor of Greater Kokstad Municipality, honourable Ms TN Jojozi and her Deputy Mayor, honourable Mr B Mtolo thought it befitting to wrap up “2016 Youth Month” with a memorable but beneficial turning point as he launched a R5.5. million Youth Environmental Service (YES) Programme at a jam-packed Riverview Sports Field in Kokstad.
The YES programme commenced its activities since August 2015 with a learner distribution of 81 learners (54 females, 26 males and 1 learner with disability). The program supports learners with disabilities and encourages their participation.
Above are the YES Program leaners with Ms TN Jojozi Mayor of Greater Kokstad Municipality (2nd from left) with his Deputy Mayor Mr B Mtolo (in yellow attire) and MEC RR Pillay (3rd from right)
In her welcoming remarks, the honourable mayor Ms Mjojozi clearly emphasised pointers on the purpose of the “YES” program being to promote sustainable development and conservation of natural resources; protecting and improving the quality and safety of the environment; prevent and reduce environmental pollution and waste; continuously improve the atmosphere and quality of air and lastly create suitable conditions for sustainable growth and development. Ms Mjojozi was quite delighted with the program with a view that it will ultimately instil in the youth the culture of taking ownership and lead towards the management of their environment. On the other hand the youth will acquire those scarce-skills required to improvement of economy through farming. According to Mayor Mjojozi ‘when youth realize they have the power to influence decisions at a community or school level, they will rise amongst their peers and begin to show signs of leadership.’ She further said that ‘youth feel as if they have an obligation and set of skills needed to represent a certain sub-section of the community population.’
It must also be indicated that the YES programme is under the auspices of the Extended Public Works Programme (EPWP) which has vastly gained ground to boost the youth on poverty alleviation and job creation in South Africa. The programme is also beneficial to rural areas that are more advantageous or conducive to agricultural driven projects. Why Kokstad has been chosen for this program remains another day’s matter.
The “YES” programme performance to date has remarkably registered reasonable outcomes with the learners having completed the following non-accredited training such as:
- The Nedbank Community Sustainable Programme that educates the team on the basics of good financial management;
- Tree planting which embraces nature and reasons to nurture its well-being for future generations;
- Eradication of alien vegetation to improving ecological integrity of the natural system;
- Environmental education in terms of awareness towards improving the quality of the environment and environmental problems and conservation among people within their respective areas or residence.
Accredited training completed included:
- Unit Standard Housekeeping and Safety (NQF Level 2 -4 credits) which is based on health and safety and environmental protection procedures with focus on the needs of those working within the environmental sector;
- Unit Standard Customer Care (NQF Level 2 – 20) where participants are able to produced strong interpersonal communication skills and problem solving within the workplace; and
- Unit Standard Maintenance of healthy, hygiene and food where learners are able to prepare fruits and vegetables for hot and cold dishes; the importance of hygiene and customer satisfaction when preparing food.
Above: Ms G Mokirrita a YES Program learner from Ward 1 Kokstad as she delivered her testimony during the launch
The learners were much engaged with workplace activities that included the Permaculture Gardens which is a fairly new agricultural system and social design principles catered around simulating or directly utilising patterns and features observed in natural ecosystem. Furthermore, other activities involved an introduction to the field of sustainable living and a good foundation for future purpose. The learners have also established food gardens within their respective Wards (Wards 1 -8) with a total of twelve (12) gardens that produce products donated to various community beneficiaries. Tree planting activity remains a crucial role for biodiversity conservation and since to date 148 indigenous trees (cassinopsis illicifolia; halleria lucido; calodendrumn capense; combetum kraussii; clausena anisate; rhamnus prinoides; podocapus henkelii) have been planted in all eight Wards. The most interesting activity is the collection of waste and clearing of illegal dumping site. Waste from an illegal dumping site got removed from St Johns Street and the eradication of alien vegetation and weeds within communities has been successfully done.
Finally the programme also offers leaners with an exit opportunity to develop and register their food security non-profit organisations (NPOs). A consensus has been reached that the entire 81 leaners will form four formidable groups that will register 4 NPOs. This is just the beginning where these learners will begin to realise their dream.
On site briefing of the ministerial delegates with all YES Program learners
In his key note address, MEC Pillay reiterated that he was quite delighted in the manner the Kokstad youth embraced the YES Program. According to Mr Pillay utilising meaningful youth participation through such programs can contribute immensely to structuring other programs and services that affect young peoples’ lives to adequately address their needs and interests as well as benefiting and contributing to the department of Public Works and the province’ success. “By meaningfully involving young people gain skills and a sense of empowerment, making healthy connections with positive inroads for the world to appreciate, the Greater Kokstad Municipality will in the near future see promising economic boost” said a confident Mr Pillay.
Noting the benefits of engaging youth, communities should look for meaningful ways to include youth in programs and activities. Often the engagement of youth in the community can be incorporated in the school environment. Ultimately, the involvement of youth will facilitate stronger communities and future leaders.
It is evident that when youth become engaged in community activities, they develop the skills needed to become an effective leader so as to decrease traditional problem behaviours. The introduction of the “YES” Programme by Public Works has therefore made strides towards empowering youth and allowing them the opportunity to participate and show their development greatly in the community they live.