A student-led youth development program that discourages underage drinking and aims to keep teens in hard-hit Cape Flats communities off the streets and shebeens will expand its work beyond Western Cape when it is adapted and presented to young people in the Buffalo Quarter of the city in east London.
Nyanga Yethu is a community-based youth development program that encourages interaction and engagement through social and recreational activities and aims to help young people “stay out of trouble and stay on track”. Not surprisingly, the mastermind behind this new program is community activist and University of Cape Town (UCT) social work student Zukile Ntentema, who developed the program in conjunction with a group of community stakeholders. The initiative was introduced in crime-ridden Nyanga and Khayelitsha in 2014 and 2016 respectively. It offers teens and young adults the opportunity to participate in a range of social activities such as open-mic performances, poetry nights and variety shows (a mix of theater and art), in a communal environment. safe and secure. Thanks to his success in Cape Town, Ntentema was asked to introduce Nyanga Yethu to young people in the Buffalo City district of east London. This request follows the devastating Enyobeni Tavern tragedy in June 2022, when 21 young people, including a 13-year-old child, were killed when a tavern party went horribly wrong.
“We have to do what we can to show them that there are so many other ways to spend our time instead of drinking and getting involved in all that bad stuff.”
“I am so excited to have the opportunity to expand this initiative and make a difference in the lives of young people in the Buffalo City District. We have a terrible drinking culture in South Africa, and it’s particularly prevalent among young people. We have to do what we can to show them that there are so many other ways to spend our time instead of drinking and getting involved in all this bad stuff,” Ntentema said.
A multi-actor collaboration
According to Ntentema, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and community mobilization groups in hard-hit areas carry out several valuable youth development programs during working hours from Monday to Friday. But weekends are seen as the biggest challenge – when young people are out of school and sucked into engaging in illicit activities, including gaining access to their local taverns and abusing alcohol.
“Violent incidents usually take place on weekends because young people are idle and unoccupied. I witnessed this with my own eyes. It was important to me to get them off the streets to keep them out of trouble. After careful consideration, I came up with Nyanga Yethu, which we implemented in Nyanga to begin with,” Ntentema said.
With the help of community organizations, a group of volunteers, the Western Cape government and other external stakeholders, Nyanga Yethu was officially launched. And the program was a great success. He said the young people have taken the initiative with ease and continue to benefit from the skills development programs and other social and recreational activities on offer. Shortly after the launch, Ntentema said he was approached by the Western Cape government to adapt and implement the program in Khayelitsha, and that it was part of the government’s alcohol harm reduction program – a initiative that aims to introduce the community to tangible interventions to reduce alcohol abuse.
“I was so grateful that the Western Cape government saw the true value of this program and the difference it has made in so many lives in Nyanga. Lack of resources is such a big problem in our communities, and it has a ripple effect. So these initiatives are important because they give meaning to our young people,” he said.
Eastern Cape Deployment
His work did not stop there. Ntentema said earlier this year, when one of his classmates approached him and asked him to consider offering his Cape Town initiative to young people in the Eastern Cape, who also needed an intervention that would help them to stay away from the streets and the shebeens. , it made him think.
Within days, as he pondered how to approach government officials, the Enyobeni tragedy shook the country. Ironically, he said the tragedy provided him with additional motivation and a map that made it clear where he needed to start – the Buffalo City District Municipality. When Ntentema approached the mayor’s office, they welcomed his proposal and agreed to meet him to understand his initiative.
“The meeting went very well. They are eager to give the program a boost. I simply highlighted their challenges and presented my initiative as a potential solution. They got into it because it is something that has proven itself and because they want to make a difference in the lives of young people in the neighborhood,” said Ntentema.
Preparatory work begins
Now the work begins. Ntentema said building partnerships with NGOs and community volunteers who recognize the value of the program and are willing to lend a hand is the first step in the process. Thereafter, organizing fundraising initiatives to start and sustain the program and finding a suitable hosting venue are important items on the to-do list.
“Expanding this business beyond Cape Town and getting the job done successfully is an important step.”
In addition, he said, it is also essential to establish the needs and desires of adolescents and young adults. And that requires a testing program, which will help him understand their interests and what they will enjoy. The first trial is expected to take place in early 2023.
“The idea is not that I stay here. The idea is that I recruit competent volunteers, show them what the program is all about and get them to live with it. This is what makes this initiative unique. It can be replicated anywhere,” he said. “I am delighted to roll up my sleeves and make my personal contribution. Expanding this business beyond Cape Town and getting the job done successfully is an important step. I look forward to witnessing his impact on the youth of the Buffalo City District.
Nyanga Yethu in Nyanga and Khayelitsha remain in operation.