Bringing active citizenship into schools

I am an image
Solomon Mahlangu High School, winners of the 2015 Y-CAP competition

Solomon Mahlangu High school from Eastern Cape was crowned the 2015 Youth Citizens Action Programme (YCAP) national winner in the secondary category this weekend for a project that tackled late coming at their school. In second place was Dlangezwa Secondary School from KwaZulu-Natal, which focused on introducing a Healthy Lifestyle at the school, and managed to change the boarding house menu from being dominated by fried food, to a healthy diet of lean meats and vegetables.

YCAP is a competition where learners present projects they’ve undertaken to improve a particular problem they’ve identified in the school. This was the 6th annual event, and for the first time included a primary school category, which was won by Gauteng’s Silverton Primary school for creating a “Mad Geeks Club” to encourage more learning through peer-to-peer tutoring at their school. Heartlines partners with Empowervate and the Department of Basic Education in this programme.

The competition, which took place at the weekend in Parys, Free State, brought together the provincial winners from all nine provinces. Topics ranged from social to academic and environmental issues and the participants found creative and innovative solutions to address them. The YCAP Programme provides learners with skills and confidence to make positive changes in their schools and communities instead of feeling hopeless and powerless.

The panel of judges included Constitutional Court Judge Edwin Cameron. "It was a great pleasure and quite a privilege to be an adjudicator at the YCAP Nationals. The projects presented by the learners were inspiring and humbling. And the event itself was bursting with positive, forward-looking energies," he said.

The Programme is run by the NGO, Empowervate, which partners with the Department of Basic Education. Speaking at the event, Director of Social Cohesion and Gender Equity, Dr Shermain Mannah, encouraged learners and their educators: “When we listen to you, we have a hope that we will have a better South Africa.”

CEO of Empowervate is Amanda Blankfield-Koseff, who founded and has run Y-CAP for the past six years. She thanked the major donors, Deutsche Bank South Africa Foundation and UTi Mounties SA, prize sponsors SpecCon and Sorbet, as well as partners Heartlines and the International Youth Council. UNISA is the pro bono research partner. “The awards element acts an incentive and serve to acknowledge the hard work all the participants have put into their projects. The key elements that the adjudicators look for in a winning project are innovation, impact and sustainability of the project.”

The top three winning schools submit a wishlist of what they would do with R10 000, R7500 or R5000 (in the secondary category) and R5000, R3000 or R2000 (in the primary category). Y-CAP then visits the schools to ensure that the money will be well used. In addition this year, each school won an accredited Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint e-learning course for the whole school worth R1 million, sponsored by SpecCon.



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