A few months ago, Jeannette Hlongwane, 28, had no clue that 20 plastic bottles could be used to make a T-shirt from the polyester found in the plastic.
Hlongwane, who lives in Makapanstad in North West, is currently enrolled with the Youth Environmental Service (YES) programme. “Makapanstad is a rural area and very few people know about the importance of looking after our environment and recycling. The programme has taught me a lot about the benefits of recycling, agriculture and the overall environmental management.
“I had no idea that some clothing materials are not 100 per cent cotton and a portion of the production of clothing is made from polyester, which comes from plastic. These are some of the things that the YES programme has taught me,” says Hlongwane. The programme is funded by the Department of Environmental Affairs in partnership with Delta Environmental Centre, an environmental education, training and consultation organisation.
The YES Programme builds the nation by involving young people in environmental services.
They get skills they can use to take up jobs and opportunities in the sector once they complete the programme.
Hlongwane says she saw an advert in the local newspaper last year where the Department of Environmental Affairs was looking for people to enrol in the programme.
She applied and started the 12-month programme in January this year. The programme has helped her financially because she receives a monthly stipend of R1 600.
“I had been unemployed for two years and in this area there aren’t any prospects for careers or education. The programme has given me an opportunity to provide for my children. I feel empowered and I am very happy to have received this opportunity.”
Martha Molubi, 25, another beneficiary, says YES has not only given her hope, but it has also empowered her with skills in the environmental sector.
Molubi was forced to stop her studies because of the financial situation at home.
“This programme teaches us a number of aspects such as agriculture and waste management. My favourite is the agricultural section of the programme. I have a dream of one day starting my own farm. This is a stepping stone,” says Molubi, who is also from Makapanstad.
The Department of Environmental Affairs started the Youth Service Programme as a Presidential programme in 2003. The aim was to empower young people and give them access to new opportunities for employment, income generation, skills development and personal development to help them contribute to building South Africa.
When Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa tabled her 2013/14 Budget Vote, she said the YES Programme would benefit 2 700 people.
“Upon exiting the programme, these young people will be placed in either permanent employment or further training institutions.” Malusi Vatsha, Project Manager from Delta Environmental Centre, says the programme is also accredited by the Education, Training and Development Practices Seta, meaning that after completing the programme, the young people can further their studies at higher education institutions.
Participants of the YES Programme are given theory and practical training.
“For example, they will be taught about waste management in the classroom and as an assignment, they will be expected to visit a waste management company and partner with it,” says Vatsha.
To be able to qualify to be part of the programme, participants need to have matric and live in a rural area.
“Environmental management is not common in most rural areas.
This programme is an opportunity to promote green jobs,” says Vatsha.
Hlongwane also agrees, saying in most rural areas people usually burn waste not knowing that it can be turned into fortune.
“I would love to open a waste management centre. There is no recycling centre in this area. It is my dream to start something of this nature,” she says.