For the fifth year in a row, doctor HEARTLINES has partnered with the Empowervate Trust in the Youth Citizens Actions Programme (YCAP), healing celebrating young people who are active citizens in their schools.
The efforts of over 3600 grade 10 learners from across the country to improve their schools, their communities and their nation were celebrated at the Youth Citizens Actions Programme (YCAP) National Championships held on 28 June 2014 in Durban, KwaZulu Natal.
YCAP is an annual competition through which grade 10 learners from high schools across the country create projects aimed at addressing issues that they have identified in their schools and communities. These issues range from drug abuse and teen pregnancy to food gardens and anti-litter campaigns.
“In a nation where youth unemployment is a growing concern, YCAP is a valuable tool in encouraging young people to take an active role in identifying and addressing issues facing their schools and communities,” explains Amanda Blankfield-Koseff, Founder and CEO of the Empowervate Trust, the NPO which powers YCAP. “Through YCAP learners are empowered and motivated to be the proactive change they seek for themselves, their schools and even their communities.”
“A definite highlight this year has been the number of past participants who’ve made contact with us in order to volunteer their time and resources. Many have gone on to study degrees like law, engineering and medicine and attribute their success to their realisation – through YCAP – that they could achieve significant things when they put their minds to it.”
Following a very difficult adjudication process, Wrenchville High School from the Northern Cape were named the 2014 National YCAP Champions and won R10000 towards the implementation of their project which sought to raise awareness about rape.
The main focus was on statutory rape which was identified as a significant issue at the school where “sugar daddies” pursue transactional relationships with schoolgirls. In order to increase awareness and combat the problem, the learners formed a Facebook group called STAR. They had learners from the school sign a petition against rape, initiated a “walk a mile in her shoes” day where boys wore high heels to feel what women go through and also organised a silent protest where participants taped their mouths shut and marched through the John Taolo Gaetsewe district.
Their group had made significant progress in the awareness of the problem and they have managed to start breaking down the stigma about the topic so that their fellow learners feel they can talk to the YCAP team about their experiences and together they can find solutions. Wrenchville School had also attended the 2013 National Championships with their drug abuse campaign which is still ongoing, showing how sustainable the programme is proving to be.
The runners up were Umlulama Senior Secondary School from KwaZulu Natal. Gangsterism and bullying are challenges that Umlulama Secondary School learners have to face daily. With the aim of increasing awareness about these problems, the learners not only initiated a march and a beauty pageant fundraiser in their community but also – with help from the Department of Education – launched a workshop addressing the issues. KZN is the most active YCAP province and has been in the top three in the Nationals since the first year of YCAP in 2010.
In third place, Groenberg Secondary School from the Western Cape came through with their homework club to improve academic performance of their school. They managed to encourage learners to take an interest in schoolwork through the club and have grown the participants from 30 to 100 in this ongoing club.
The Great Effort award which encourages the team who has been inspirational went to Eastern Cape’s Isolomzi Senior Secondary School, for their awareness campaign against faction fighting, prevalent in this area. A learner was killed when he walked home from school and stumbled into another tribe’s area. The YCAP team organised a meeting with the tribal chiefs, managed to get a “community policing forum” in action to give more people the power to confiscate weapons and organised communal gatherings and door-to-door campaigns. These have been lowering the incidents of faction fighting.
“YCAP has changed thousands of lives,” shares Blankfield-Koseff. “Not only those of the participants, but those of the beneficiaries of the projects implemented. We are so grateful to our partners who made the project possible.”
The Deutsche Bank South Africa Foundation is Empowervate’s founding sponsor, having supported the YCAP Programme and Big Talk since the first youth dialogue in 2007. Latest sponsors UTi SA Mounties Division have given Empowervate room for expansion of the programme. The Department of Basic Education is the strategic and implementation partner since 2009, along with other non-profit organisations, partner NPO Heartlines and incubating NPO Afrika Tikkun.