News / Africa

South Africa's Soweto Township Celebrates Beacon of Hope

Kliptown is one of the most destitute areas of the large Soweto township, South Africa, November 2012. (S. Honorine/VOA)
Kliptown is one of the most destitute areas of the large Soweto township, South Africa, November 2012. (S. Honorine/VOA)
Solenn Honorine
— In South Africa, more than a half million pupils are busy writing their marathon end of high-school examination, known here as “matric."  This is a decisive time for the youth, as the matric has become a much-needed diploma to get a job in a country where 30 percent of the active population is unemployed - and more than 45 percent of blacks.  But studying for matric is particularly hard in the poorest communities which lack basic amenities. 

At a local non-governmental organization in Kliptown, one of the most destitute areas of Soweto township, one man makes all the difference for the youth. He is Thulani Madondo, a founder of the Kliptown Youth Project, or KYP.

Thulani Madondo, 30, has dedicated his life to improving the fate of the Kliptown youth, Soweto township, South Africa, November 2012. (S. Honorine/VOA)Thulani Madondo, 30, has dedicated his life to improving the fate of the Kliptown youth, Soweto township, South Africa, November 2012. (S. Honorine/VOA)
x
Thulani Madondo, 30, has dedicated his life to improving the fate of the Kliptown youth, Soweto township, South Africa, November 2012. (S. Honorine/VOA)
Thulani Madondo, 30, has dedicated his life to improving the fate of the Kliptown youth, Soweto township, South Africa, November 2012. (S. Honorine/VOA)
"This is our communal tap.  This tap will be shared by 80 to 100 families," he explains. "Kliptown is a community of plus or minus 45 000 people without a lot of basic things like electricity. Our homes are built out of corrugated iron, we call them... it's shacks.  And children walk about 25 to 30 minutes to their respective schools, depending on what language they speak.”

In Africa's richest country, Kliptown is the dark side of the coin.  While the wealthy northern suburbs of Johannesburg remind one of Los Angeles, with their wide, shady avenues and modern parks and shopping malls, desolated Kliptown is simply an undeveloped slum.  Because of a lack of proper sanitation, a thin river of used water snakes between the box-like houses that are burning hot in summer, freezing cold in winter.

Life here can be bleak; but not desperate, thanks in part to people like Thulani Madondo.

​Madondo wears his young age, barely 30, like a badge of pride.  In five years, the organization he created, the Kliptown Youth Project, has become a beacon of hope for the neighborhood youth.

Hope for a brighter future

Andisiwe, one of the young people who attended the after-school program, is now waiting to go and study at the university.  She wants to study humanities. 

"I grew up in a shack," she says. "But in ten years... just a big house.  A big house with a swimming pool and everything in it!"

Nineteen-year-old Lindiwe Manate, whose bubbly personality and optimistic outlook belies the bleak environment she grew up in, says Madondo's program helped her a lot.

"If you know exactly what you want, and you know where you want to be, then you'll come here because you know that's a place where you deal with people who have a dream, people who want to make their future to be successful, people who want to change.  That's my role model.  That's why I'm always with Thulani," she says.

A strong smell of cabbage stew wafts from an empty classroom.  It's 3:00 p.m., time for a warm meal for the 400 children and teens who come every day to KYP, either to get help with their homework, enjoy the only place in the neighborhood with an Internet connection, toss the football or, for the little ones, to climb the jungle gym.

Local involvement

Starting as an informal study-support group led by local volunteers, KYP has become a large organization which now claims the support of a dozen NGOs or corporations.  It is housed in a former Catholic school building.

Madondo says it is up to locals like him, who grew up in Kliptown, to be agents of change.

“Leaving or going away, it would have been a betrayal to this community because I know exactly what it means to go to school with an empty stomach, to go to bed with an empty stomach.  This is another thing that we teach the kids and young people that we work with: if it happens that you succeed, you need to come back and help those that are still struggling," said Madondo.

The preparation for the end of high school exam, the "matric," is particularly important as the exam is a key to escaping Kliptown's dire conditions.  Madondo is proud of the fact that 21 youths he taught have been able to enroll in colleges or universities - a feat that less than 10 percent of black South Africans achieve, according to the 2011 census.

Partnering for training, jobs

KYP also partners with the private sector to try and find training and jobs for the youths.

Kashia Pierce works for a Long Beach, California, based company that provides scholarship and learning to disadvantaged youth.  She says after-school training is essential in modern South Africa to fix the glaring holes in the local education system.  She says the problem is not limited to poor neighborhoods like Kliptown.

"What happens is that the workers out there, when they apply for a position, we as [a] company, we require that they have basic numeracy, but they're not meeting that," she said. "So that means that you can have applicants to jobs in your company, they have matric, but, for all intent and purposes, they can't really count... We see it all over the place. It's heartbreaking.  It honestly is heartbreaking.”

Experts say that because black South Africans have suffered so long from segregation and apartheid, many have developed a sense of entitlement to the state's services.  But through his organization, Madondo hopes to switch this mindset towards a "can do" attitude.

You May Like

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid