The need to see the community uplifted led young professional Yolanda Madyira, 27, to become part of the Jessica Fortuin Fellowship (JFF), a two-year programme that promotes
Every two years, 33 youth are selected for the programme, which teaches them how to establish and run sustainable civil society organisations that play an active role in developing communities.
They also learn how to run income-generating initiatives that benefit their communities and themselves.
The JFF, a National Development Agency (NDA) programme that aims to take charge and change the socio-economic conditions of communities, was named after the late Jessica Fortuin, a veteran social worker who joined the NDA in 2003 and has been active in social development for 34 years.
“It is very important that as young people we are active in the development of our community. We have the power to shape change and tackle social ills such as substance abuse and the violence in society,” said Madyira.
The NDA launched the JFF in 2014 to enhance community development by identifying and developing young graduates in the fields of social work, development studies, research and human and social sciences.
The NDA, an agency of the Department of Social Development, is tasked with poverty eradication through engaging civil society organisations and skilling them to empower communities.
Madyira, who holds a degree in political science from the University of Western Cape, said that before she joined the JFF she could not find a job.
Based at the NDA’s Cape Town office, Madyira started her training last year. She said she enjoys working with non-profit organisations (NPOs), because it helps to uplift the country.
“The work that I am doing is giving me hands-on experience with working with NPOs. We help train people within organisations and teach them how a proper NPO should run as their aim is to help the community.
“Being part of this programme has also taught me what it means when people are less fortunate. I am constantly looking for ways to help NPOs that I work with to become better.”
Chief Executive Officer of the NDA, Dr Vuyelwa Nhlapo said the programme provides young people with an opportunity to gain work experience, focused direction and inspiration for development and achievement.
“Through this programme, we prepare the youth to live up to their full potential and drive their own and their community’s path to development and success,” said Dr Nhlapo.
The NDA also contributes towards research in the development sector and has exposed some of the graduates to opportunities in the research discipline.
It recognises that it is important for the youth to be encouraged to go into the development sector and to play an active role in poverty alleviation.
“This sector needs innovative minds to come up with programmes and projects to empower poor and rural communities and encourage partnerships between communities, civil society, government and the private sector,” said Dr Nhlapo.
Growing need for social workers
Earlier this year Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini said at the Social Work Indaba that there was a demand for social workers in the country.
Currently, the ratio of supervisor to practitioner ranges from 1:10 to 1:13 depending on the area they are in, leaving many practitioners working without supervision.
The department also stated that the ratio of social workers to the population countrywide is estimated at 1:5000, well above recommended levels. This is worsened by the fact that social workers are expected by communities to be ‘general development workers’.
The effect of this is poor implementation of norms and standards in social work practice.
In order to meet the 55 000 social service practitioner target, as set out by the National Development Plan, the department has rolled out a scholarship programme that funds students who want to study social work at universities.
Since the scholarship programme started about 8 000 young people have graduated with the department’s assistance. More than 3 500 of these have been absorbed into the public service. The department is working closely with provinces to address the issue of absorption.