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Early this year, two Axium team members, Yonelwa Biko and Pamela Mdlandla joined a network of young people who are passionate about tackling the youth unemployment issue in South Africa. This network is called the Youth Capital Influencer Network (YCI).

Pamela describes YCI as, “a network that connects young people around SA to mobilize the young people in their communities to try to address youth unemployment.”

Yonelwa added, “YCI helps the youth of SA to better understand the term of unemployment and the things that revolve around it. But it doesn't only end there - it gives young people a chance to find ways to reduce unemployment by getting other youth to be active by doing something with their time, talent and skills.”

To set the scene, Crystal Williams from Harambee shared that before the pandemic hit SA, “you could fill the FNB stadium 80 times and we still wouldn’t fit all the young South African who are not in education, employment or training.”*

This is around 8 million young people who are out of school, unemployed and not receiving any training. With the additional economic impact of the pandemic - we can only imagine how that number has increased in the past months as companies have had to close their doors, travel is restricted, internships are cancelled, and work-seeking costs remain high.

Both Yonelwa and Pam spoke of the value of being part of a network and learning from young people like themselves who are passionate about addressing unemployment.

Yonelwa explained, “Even though I haven't experienced unemployment myself, it is something I want to avoid in future. YCI is a good platform and will help people around me because I will get information and share it.”

Williams shared that, “6/10 young employees in SA between 15-34 found their job through someone they knew, whether through family, a friend, a previous employer, etc. But half of the young people in SA live in households where no one is employed and this means their chances of connecting to someone that could help find them a job are limited.”

Pam and Yonelwa are both using their skills and community capital to create networks of information and opportunity in their communities.

To introduce themselves briefly, Pam shared, “I grew up in a deep rural area called Talemofu, I have two kids and am married. I now live in another rural area in Willowvale where I work at Axium as a Nobalisa Mentor. I mentor 19 young people who are working in foundation phase classrooms assisting teachers and running reading clubs promoting literacy.”

Yonelwa shared, “I am from Mqanduli in the rural Eastern Cape. I’m a mom of a one year old, I have always loved dancing and have recently found that I enjoy helping people with their academics and so decided to apply for Education at UNISA. I started working for Axium as a Maths facilitator for grade 8 and 9 learners and I am enjoying it!”

As part of YCI, Yonelwa and Pam are both drawing on their skill set as literacy and numeracy champions.

Pam spoke about her vision of creating job opportunities through a community library, “As a person from a deep rural area, I want to give back to rural communities.I want to start more community reading clubs especially for students who have disabilities because they are not often accommodated at our schools. I want to get older people involved too who can share stories about their time. There’s a hall in my community that used to be used as a chick nest but is now used for meetings. I hope if my dreams of a community library come true I could use this place.”

Yonelwa’s vision for reducing unemployment is to make tutoring more accessible so that more learners have the opportunity to complete their schooling and have the necessary qualifications to set them up for success. “Inspired by what my team has been doing with online learning over whatsapp, I want to create a space for more learners from rural areas to be able to access online tutoring. I’m already doing this at work but I want to take my job outside of work. I’d also like to create a space where there are monthly showcases of music, dance and poetry at Zithulele community Hall, so that students know it’s also ok to have non-academic interests.”

While the impacts of Covid-19 on unemployment will be severe and will require many people working together to address, Yonelwa and Pam shared that there are many inspiring people who are a part of the YCI network who are willing to rise to the challenge. Pam gave a special shout out, “Majority of the people I met were from the suburbs and townships but I met someone from a rural area who spoke about her many passions including modelling - it’s you Yonelwa,” Pam laughed, “I was so motivated that someone from a rural area had big dreams. Often people who have big dreams end up moving from rural to urban and spread their wings there. But things can still happen here and I have been inspired by your dreams.”

“I promise I will keep the inspiring job up,” Yonelwa smiled.

*Sikhaba COVID-19 - Youth Development: Crystal Duncan Williams



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