Youth Unemployment Rate in South Africa averaged 52.65 percent from 2013 until 2019, reaching an all time high of 58.20 percent in the third quarter of 2019. This insight is guiding Wilderness Foundation Africa’s Youth Development Programme which is aimed at simultaneously conserving wilderness areas and nurturing the physical and psychological wellness of young people. In this way, WFA aims to tackle environmental education and youth unemployment in South Africa.
This past week saw 37 youth graduate from the Umzi Wethu programme of Wilderness Foundation Africa, bringing the total youth who have graduated from this vocational training programme to 518 since inception.
Umzi Wethu is a vocational training academy which prepares youth for positions in conservation and nature based industries.
The Umzi Wethu (meaning “Our Home”) youth development training courses not only provides accredited training for previously disadvantaged youth, but also incorporates the following innovative elements: (1) a mentorship support programme; (2) access to wellness, group and individual counselling and psychological support; (3) assist the students with a paid internship placement and supporting them in securing jobs post training.
The current group of Umzi Wethu graduates received certificates for Hospitality Professional Cookery and Conservation General Assistants. Most graduates have been placed in employment positions in the Eastern Cape, with one graduate, Sikelelwa Mbali having secured employment at the Kalahari Resort, Wisconsin, USA.
Graduation ceremonies at the WFA Youth Development Programme are always filled with inspirational and emotional stories and moments. Graduate Yonela Mahanjana, commented “Thank you, Wilderness Foundation Africa for helping us achieve this milestone. Our self-confidence has been enormously boosted and we feel a sense of belonging. It was not an easy journey but through resilience we have conquered”.
“What a journey, watching transformation unfolding, creativity at its peak and the willingness of these students to change their lives and to realize their dreams”, said Loyiso Mzongwana, Facilitator at the Youth Development Programme.