The Finnish education systems supports all children and youth to learn social skills and self-confidence in order for them to become active citizens. As we learn these skills in school in Finland, we have grown up in an environment that supports critical thinking, but for instance in South Africa these things are not self-explanatory.
ENKE – Make Your Mark is a leadership development organisation, which trains and supports South African youth on how turn their knowledge into positive action. The Embassy of Finland in Pretoria has funded the organizations’ leadership development programs (the Trailblazer Programme and the Catalyst Programme) through its Fund for Local Cooperation (FLC) from 2016 -2018. These programs teach young people important skills so they can change their mindsets, make an impact in their communities or improve their chances of employment. We here at the Embassy believe that South African youth can be the catalyst for change and build a better future for themselves.
Young people have identified specific issues and skills gaps such as lack of clean water, common activities, education or cleanliness in their communities. The Trailblazer Programme targets students from grades 10 and 11 try to solve these challenges with ENKE’s fellow students and alumni network support. Every year about 135 high school students participate in the ENKE forum, which is a 5 day incubator for the change makers and 80-90 per cent of the participants succeed in taking action in their communities.
In the forum students learn to understand themselves and identify their strengths and weaknesses. They hear inspiring stories from students that have gone through the program, learn social skills and make their action plan together. After the forum, they go back to their communities with bright minds and can-do attitude. They start to take action to solve problems/challenges that they feel are important in their communities. Of course, they face challenges on the way but with the support from ENKE and their fellow change makers they manage to tackle them.
This is a typical question in the student’s minds. However, when they succeed in carrying out one project in their communities they usually end up doing more projects and involving fellow students from their schools. Hussein from Mayville Secondary School in KwaZulu-Natal started four different projects after the program. For instance, his projects targeted students who came late to the school and struggled with physics and maths. He also arranged an event where students went to perform arts / dancing and singing for patients who visited a local clinic. After seeing the impacts of his projects, Hussein started thinking about other ways of having an impact in his community; he launched a Youth Day event, where different students talents where showcased in his school.
The Catalyst Programme targets young people who are not employed, enrolled in education or training and trains them in skills that support them in finding jobs or start enterprise. The Embassy of Finland in Pretoria was the first funder to support the Catalyst Programme pilot project in 2016 and it is still running successfully. The program lasts 3-4 months and the participants have meetings two times a week. During the last intake, 36 people started the program and 30 people managed to finish it. After the program finished, 75 per cent of the students found a job or started their own enterprise. “Since joining The Catalyst Programme I have been able to start a clothing label called “Scrap” making T-shirts and caps to generate an income” Kgomotso, Johannesburg.
Thinking outside the box and challenging oneself can make a huge impact on the community. In an ideal situation the Trailblazer program would be part of school’s curriculum and every high school student would have a chance to learn social skills and build their self-confidence in order to become active citizens. We challenge all of you to make an impact in your community.