Leungo Learning Circle launches youth empowerment programme in Thembisa

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Ido Lekota

SCORES of learners from a school in Thembisa are set to go on a path that could see them becoming well-rounded individuals with not only certificates of their academic achievement to show but also life skills to solve problems both they and their society face.

The SEED Programme is a youth empowerment project in which Leungo Education is partnering with Maphutha Secondary School to provide learners in Grades 8-12 with a variety of skills preparing them to become agents of change not only in their own lives but in their communities.

Led by social entrepreneur and founder of Leungo Education Thami Magele, the SEED Programme helps learners to develop a positive mindset and self-awareness. The learners will also be guided on developing critical skills including creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem-solving, communication and presentation skills.

The program is also about closing the gap between school and work readiness by helping them develop interviewing skills, CV writing, Business Communication and Writing skills, career guidance and research skills.

“This is the SEED (peu in Tswana) from which will grow the fruit (Leungo in Tswana) that can hopefully help nourish a generation of future-fit African youth which will take its rightful place in the global economy”, explains Magele.

“The SEED Programme is part of our commitment to providing quality education to underserved communities throughout the African continent. We know that such kind of support we offer to the learners does contribute to the learners’ academic performance achievements and success and is associated with improved grades, strong attendance, positive relationships between students, teachers and adults – as well as minimal engagement in risky behaviour. This is indeed a holistic intervention in the situation that our youth in underserved communities find themselves.”

Most importantly, the programme does not target only the learners but also the teachers who must be empowered to guide the soon-to-be-empowered learners. This includes moving from the “big sage” approach of teaching to a more learner-centred one.

This is an approach which, according to research, promotes effective learning and produces quality learning outcomes for the learners. It is the kind of teaching and learning that actively involve learners in their own learning and personal development.

The Programme therefore also includes empowering teachers by helping them develop critical thinking-driven content for learners.

The programme also involves parents because research has once again shown that parents playing an active role in their children’s learning does contribute to the quality of learning. Such research has also shown that the lack of parental support and a lack of high-quality instruction lead to poor educational outcomes.

To this end, the programme includes running workshops for both teachers and parents in preparation for the new role they now have to play in support of their soon-to-be-empowered learners and children.

A buoyant Maphutha Secondary School principal Andile Tshabalala says the SEED programme is an important step towards building the much-needed high self-esteem among both the learners and the teachers.

He says that confronted by the current situation where there is truancy and disengagement from the learners – many teachers found themselves at sea – when it comes to encouraging learner participation in class. This has led to many teachers becoming disheartened and just going through the paces.

“I am hoping that through the programme our teachers will be well-armed to face the challenges of teaching a now more assertive cadre of learners and not become overwhelmed.

“Self-awareness is an important ingredient in young people’s education because it provides students insight into who they are, and why they react as they do, as well as giving them direction for self-improvement. This is because self-aware people have a fundamental belief in the ability to achieve whatever goal in their lives.”

The SEED Programme is an important development in the context of the challenges facing our education system – when it comes to preparing our learners for their role as agents for change in both their lives and of the broader South African society.

The challenges arise from the fact that – as education experts have pointed out -our education system is not about equipping learners with skills and knowledge that will make them become self-reliant and problem-solvers for the greater good.

During schooling, learners are taught and told that if they work hard and pass they will have a better and brighter future and are guaranteed a better future. This happens especially at institutions of higher learning where students are only prepared for the jobs they aspire to do in the future. Three or four years later leave with their degrees without solutions for real-life problems or challenges.

Research has shown that interventions such as Leungo Education’s “SEED Programme” – especially at the basic education level – do go a long way in preparing the youth to become well-rounded individuals with the ability to fully utilise their talents for the benefit of the broader society.

Coming to skills development, Leungo Education Education has over the past year been running a training programme for unemployed graduates and matriculants in systems development and business analysis skills funded by the Media Information Communication and Technology (MICT) SETA.

 It was during the training that Leungo identified skills gaps that need to be addressed. To do so Leungo adopted a learner-centred approach focusing on peer learning, critical thinking and problem-solving thereby enhancing the trainees’ employment readiness.

Another invention by Leungo Education is a Peer Network Solution App which enables collaboration and knowledge sharing among its users across the African continent.

“The core beneficiaries of the App are high school learners, the unemployed youth and anyone seeking to learn continuously – including professionals learning from each other through the established communities of interests and practice networks”, posits Magele.

As a social entrepreneur, Magele has also founded Leungo Learning Circles – a non-profit organisation which brings African professionals from all walks of life – with their variant experiences – to explore solutions for the development of Africa’s children.

Practically Leungo Learning Circles is geared towards developing an action plan for the implementation of whatever solutions the participants come up with aimed at improving the opportunities for Africa’s children to become masters of their future. To this end, Leungo Learning Circles’ focus is on educating Africa’s children to become critical contributors to an Africa with a sustainable future.

“Leungo Learning Circles is about changing the narrative of the future of Africa’s children; instilling a winning mindset; challenging all to think critically about the issues facing Africa and considering what role we can all play in contributing to positive change and finding solutions to move forward.

“Africa is home to some of the world’s fastest-growing economies with a young dynamic population. By focusing on the “How do we move Africa forward” conversation, we are acknowledging the existence of fundamental sustainable developmental gaps and perpetual patterns broadening the divide between opportunity and success.

“The interest to move Africa forward is a quest to unpack and understand existing old and new applicable successful practices, highlighting our diversity as a strength for creating and seizing new opportunities as a collective; so we can create an environment to empower the future fit African child”, avers Magele

“Our name Leungo is a Tswana word which means Fruit in English. We believe we are all seeds waiting to be nurtured into full-grown fruit. This is because we believe we are all equally talented with specific purposes in life.”

Ido Lekota is a media practitioner and an independent socio-political commentator.