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Learners transforming communities

Written by More Matshediso

Empowervate Trust is a youth development non-profit organisation (NPO) that works in partnership with the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to give learners an opportunity to become agents of change in their communities.

It runs a well-established initiative called the Youth Citizens Action Programme (Y-CAP), which is a competition-based programme that encourages learners from primary and secondary schools to identify challenges affecting their schools and communities and come up with solutions.

Empowervate Trust Founder and Chief Executive Officer Amanda Blankfield-Koseff said the idea to establish the programme came to her while she was working for a non-governmental organisation as a marketing manager. Pupils from Oranje Oewer Primary School in the Northern Cape won first prize for coming up with a waste management project to keep their school environment clean.

Back then, she was responsible for facilitating youth dialogues to discuss problems facing communities.

“I realised that young people were excited to be given a platform to talk about issues affecting their communities and to suggest solutions, but it was just a ‘talk show’ and that eventually discouraged them,” she explained.

Blankfield-Koseff suggested to her boss that the programme be changed into an action programme so that it could be impactful, with concrete results, and was given the go-ahead to run with the project. It was decided that it would proceed as a school competition to incentivise participation.

The programme was pitched to the education department and in 2010, Y-CAP held its first competition. The pilot project was run in four provinces – the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, the Western Cape and Gauteng.

Last year, 400 schools from across the country participated.

Four teams from different schools including primary, secondary, beginner and advanced level categories won a tablet and R5000 each for coming first place, and four teams that came second place won R2500 each.

Oranje Oewer Primary School in the Northern Cape won the 2019 beginner category. The team won first prize for a waste management project to keep their school environment clean.

Because Y-CAP is a partnership between an NPO and a government department, it won the Special Ministerial Award in the 17th Public Sector Innovation Awards 2019.

The DBE said partnerships with civil society are important because they are instrumental in mobilising society in support of the education of learners. It explained that while the school takes care of formal curricular education matters for children, civil society strengthens the informal co-curricular educational aspects, which are essential for the development of a well-rounded and holistically educated child.

If you want your school to be part of the programme, you can email info@empowervate.org for enquiries.