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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs