DVV International reacts to rising youth unemployment in South Africa with non-formal education programmes

South Africa faces a youth crisis of unemployment, poverty and a range of difficult living conditions that has the potential to fuel a state of youth apathy. The youth unemployment rate in South Africa currently stands at 64.4%.

In South Africa, skills development is helping young people to overcome the high rate of unemployment and to venture into small businesses to earn a living.

By Dyson Mthawanji, Communications Officer, DVV International Southern Africa

South Africa faces a youth crisis of unemployment, poverty and a range of difficult living conditions that has the potential to fuel a state of youth apathy. The youth unemployment rate in South Africa currently stands at 64.4%. Covid-19 conditions have compounded the challenges that existed before the virus reached the country. Unfortunately, many unemployed young people who have dropped out of school do not have the confidence to go back into a formal learning environment. This is why DVV International South Africa in collaboration with its non-governmental organisation (NGO) partner, The Women’s Circle (TWC), is promoting non-formal education programmes that are relevant to the learning needs of youth.  

A skills training programme for youth to secure employment

TWC developed a programme that seeks to develop the skills of young people who lack the qualifications or experience required to secure employment in an ever-shrinking formal job market. The approach helps to restore hope and show the youth that they can develop skills and knowledge in ways that are different and often not provided in the formal school-system.

“TWC’s response to this crisis is based on years of community analysis, working with community learning circles and using participatory tools to map youth mobility and the many problems that the youth face,” says DVV International Country Director in South Africa, Farrell Hunter.

TWC courses teach skills that youth can use in the short-term to earn an income in the informal (township) economy and/or gain work experience and knowledge that could assist them to enter the formal labour market, should the currently unavailable employment opportunities arrive.

The programme facilitators are all unemployed community members that were identified based on their skills and work experience and who received an intensive training. One of the graduates of the programme commented that the patience and support by facilitators was extremely helpful.

Some of the participants are already applying what they learnt in the course to earn an income by selling their products in their communities. Participants were taught to sew garments, give beauty treatments such as face and nail care, as well as massage and hairdressing. The practical training is complemented with theoretical components.

Periodically, other community members are invited to receive a free treatment, acting as “models” for participants. This also addresses the issue of personal care and wellbeing as mental health issues are rife. Garments are also produced and donated to matriculants who cannot afford the cost of outfits for their matric dance (equivalent to prom dance).

Reacting to manifold challenges

However, the programme is facing challenges amid economic meltdown. For example, increases in transport costs make it challenging for participants from various communities to attend workshops. TWC therefore offers support to participants by providing transport subsidies and a light meal from the income generated with the programme.

The restrictions due to the pandemic have also impacted the number of participants that TWC can accommodate in their youth skills development programmes. These programmes endeavour to develop young people in their efforts for self-reliance and to ward off poverty. With the required physical distancing and fewer participants per course, an increase in the number of training days was required.

TWC has doubled their efforts to ensure that youth do not miss out on their training times. The course duration is four months and, with an overwhelming list of interested applicants, the classes are fully booked into 2022.

The TWC education and training activities enable youth to be potential community leaders and social actors for change while enabling unemployed youth to earn an income in the informal, local township economy.

“Rather than being a narrow skills development programme, each training session starts with a popular education workshop session that includes an analysis and conscientisation on the social issues that face youth and their communities. The TWC approach is based on the ‘each-one-teach-one’ philosophy that promotes the sharing of skills and knowledge between youth,” says Hunter.


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