Perspective

White Location, Knysna

The following opinion piece was published in a South African newspaper, The Daily Maverick, on June 13, 2019. We shall let it speak for itself.

Resolving South Africa’s Brutal Order – Andrew Faull

Democratic societies become violent when their governments lose the monopoly on force, and trust between citizens and the state erodes. This is according to Rachel Kleinfeld, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, whose 2018 book A Savage Order explains how even the most violent democratic societies can find peace. Read in the context of South Africa’s newly elected government, it suggests that good leadership should be able to turn the country’s violent tide.

Kleinfeld identifies two reasons democracies become plagued by violence. The first is when states are too weak to sustain the rule of law. This occurs when governments lack the resources and skills to govern. Such states can be reformed with aid, training and political will.

The second reason is that political and economic elites manipulate budgets and policies in favour of particular communities, for example, apartheid and state capture. This often happens in collaboration with violent groups and contributes to the erosion of criminal justice institutions so their abuse goes unchecked. Kleinfeld notes that this is common in highly unequal societies.

In time, violence that begins with the state saturates society. It becomes the tool through which people solve problems with friends and neighbours. Knowing the state is unlikely to respond to calls for help or hold them accountable for their actions, citizens use violence with increasing impunity. This holds true in South Africa where most violence occurs between people who know each other.

Impunity is a common feature in South Africa where even the act of murder can be met without consequence. In the Hammanskraal precinct about 50km north of Pretoria, it is reported that not one person has been convicted for the 543 murders recorded in 2017 and 2018.

In such societies, citizens turn to vigilantism, community groups and gangs for security and justice. Those who can afford it barricade their homes and employ private security guards. South Africa has 3.4 private security personnel for every police officer.

Although some people may believe that South Africa’s violence emerged with democracy, it started long before 1994. It was the apartheid-era elites who used the violence of the military, police and prison to suppress the majority of South Africans because of the colour of their skin.

It was the apartheid state that failed to provide adequate, professional policing to black communities so that they became custodians of coercive force. And it was the apartheid state that destroyed such communities when it forcibly relocated them, allowing gangs to monopolise force in new settlements. Apartheid taught South Africans that violence is a legitimate expression of authority and therefore also of resistance.

Democracy brought an opportunity for reform. Police were deployed where they were previously absent and sworn to serve all equally. Millions who previously distrusted the state turned to it for help, and violence once invisible to the middle class became visible.

But although the murder rate more than halved between 1993 and 2011, violence remains endemic. South Africans’ trust in government and each other is weak, while extreme unemployment and poverty sustain chronic stress and social strain.

Kleinfeld suggests that reform of violent democracies must be driven by the middle class – which is perhaps problematic for South Africa where the majority remain poor. It is easy, she writes, for corrupt governments to ignore the indigent, but not the middle class. Her middle class are people with enough education, income and aspiration to be independent of the state and are therefore able to place pressure on governments to act fairly.

South Africa’s many poor are highly dependent on the state, with 45% of households receiving at least one government grant. At the same time, thousands of professionals emigrate each year. This does not bode well for reform, although the middle-class support for and confidence in President Cyril Ramaphosa is a start.

According to Kleinfeld, leaders capable of restoring a state’s monopoly of force and ending endemic violence possess key traits: they have vision, are decisive, employ skilled technocrats, communicate with and are answerable to the public, and get the state working fast. They use intelligence and surveillance, informants and asset seizures to end impunity at the top. Then they steer reform down through government and the private sector, to schools, clinics, streets and homes.

Ramaphosa’s initiatives to reform the National Prosecuting Authority and the State Security Agency and tackle corruption are vital. If the African National Congress (ANC) is unable to remove its corrupt comrades itself, the criminal justice system must do it instead. This means rapidly reforming the South African Police Service, particularly its intelligence and priority crimes components, and fixing the prosecution service. But it also means professionalising front-line policing.

Regaining the monopoly of force does not mean putting everyone who breaks the law in prison. It simply means responding swiftly and fairly when people call on the police for help and when state intervention is required.

When South Africans believe that the state is responsive, trust will grow. In turn, more people will pay taxes, further enabling government to improve the economy and deliver much-needed services. These include the many primary violence prevention initiatives known to be effective, and which can help South Africa to heal. But in the absence of democratic rule of law, a growing economy and public trust, violence prevention will struggle to have society-wide impact.

Andrew Faull is a senior researcher, Justice and Violence Prevention, ISS Pretoria.

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Soccer Upstages Gangsterism

Centre-rear: Coach Justice

You are already familiar with these faces from our previous blog posts about the Peace Agreement signed in December 2018.

However, notice the more relaxed body language and nobody throwing gang signs.

Red cap: Coach Justice

“U a great guy jimmy… Nd ii gotta thnk u cause if it wasn’t for u then mby some of our friends would have been stabbed to but ii thnk u for opening our eyes nd showing us that there is more to life than being a gangster nd beating each other up…I thnk u for everything u have done so far nd ii hope we wil walk a long path together 🙏 Jim.
U an inspiration for many people nd thnx for what u doing ii hope people appreciate what u doing. K.L. (Message sent by leader of one group – March 28th)

L to R: Coop, Rumano (grade 10), Jim

Our previous blog post described how Jim and Coop had retained an experienced Coach and were planning a soccer clinic for 3 boys from each of 5 groups (4 of 5 groups who signed the Peace Agreement plus a 6th group). Funding for the clinic was provided by a donation to the Khayamandi Foundation by Don, an American who recently visited Knysna and met with some gang-involved youth through Jim.

March 9th 2019 – Soccer Clinic

The soccer clinic was a success. We provided transportation and all 15 boys “pitched”, as they say in South Africa. Three were in Jim’s car, and 12 in a taxi van. The 12 in the taxi had a history of violent fighting and this was the first time in a long while that many had been together under the pretence of peace. The boys were tentative at first, but that quickly changed on the soccer field. And the ride home included many laughs between new friends.

March 9th 2019 Soccer Clinic

The clinic concluded with a soccer match that included many local youth who were also on the field. Our 15 guys are standing and wearing orange bibs.

Soccer Clinic wrap-up by Coop

At the end of the clinic, each threesome was provided some basic equipment and challenged to return to their group and institute a training schedule. “Demonstrate that you are serious, and Coach Justice will commence weekly coaching visits and we will provide soccer boots (cleats)”. 

standing: Coach Justice

And it is happening. Justice has commenced coaching sessions with each group and soccer boots (cleats) were delivered to 2 groups last week. Some of the groups initiated soccer matches on their own. Two teams played on each of the 2 previous Sundays, and a mini-tournament involving 4 groups and Coach Justice is scheduled for today.

The Peace Agreement remains in effect, and the soccer program is helping to reinforce and maintain peace. Damaged relationships are being rekindled, and new friendships established.

Peace Agreement Group 5

Yet there remains work to be done. There are numerous youth gangs in the community and not all respond to the same approach. The 5th group to sign the December Peace Agreement is one example.

Far right: Welcome Witbooi

Welcome Witbooi (see photo) is a reformed gangster who now works with gang-involved youth and impacted communities across South Africa.

The prison system in South Africa is controlled by the notorious Number Gangs; the 26’s, 27’s, and 28’s. The highest rank in each gang is General, and the dominant gang is the 28’s. Welcome joined a street gang at age 13 and was sentenced to 23 years at age 17. He served 14 years, prior to being released 7 years ago.

Welcome is a retired 4-Star General in the 28’s, the highest rank attainable. Stars are earned by stabbing or killing a prison warder (guard), or designated inmate. While death is typically the only way out of the 28’s, there is sometimes another option for a General. That’s how Welcome got out. (Click to learn how)

Group 5

Welcome was recently in Knysna to conduct a workshop and start the process of developing a Gang and Violence prevention strategy for the town. The workshop and 2 speaking engagements were sponsored by KILT; the Knysna Initiative for Learning and Teaching.

KILT kindly scheduled a few hours of Welcome’s time to be spent with Jim, such that they could tour the Location (former townships) and meet with 1 of the groups who signed the Peace Agreement. The meeting was scheduled in advance, and allowed Welcome to speak candidly with the guys.

Walking through the community with Welcome.

While some of the conversation was not in English, it was evident that Welcome’s message was well received, The impact has been positive. Welcome’s credibility as someone who knows the harsh reality of life in the 28’s, and prison, is invaluable.

Much has been accomplished. Thanks to each of the groups, and the willingness of many of the guys to make more responsible choices, the boys in Janet’s study program now attend schools which are considerably safer.

Peace means the groups are no longer fighting during or after school, or carrying weapons to school. And this means walking to and from school is safer for students attending 3 high schools.

Thank you for your readership and continued support, 

Janet and Jim

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Peace Agreement

Over a 9 day period in December, a Peace Agreement was signed by 5 youth gangs. Each group is comprised of approximately 15 boys between 15 and 20 years of age, living in 4 geographic areas or Locations (former townships). Much of Jim’s time since returning to South Africa has been devoted to establishing relationships with the members of each group, and building on those relationships to facilitate a path to peace.

The process included face-to-face meetings between a few boys from each group, such that the boys could hear firsthand that their enemies wanted peace. Three meetings were at a neutral site selected by Jim, and one was at the police station with 3 officers in attendance. Only in the presence of police did the latter group feel sufficiently safe to attend without weapons.

Gangsterism is a huge problem in South Africa. Any reference to gangs, including youth gangs, can understandably elicit a negative reaction from many individuals. While no form of aggression or criminal activity should be condoned, it is important to differentiate between gangsterism with the purpose of criminal activity (e.g. illicit drug trade), and youth gangs fighting over territorial disputes (turf), girls, or seeking revenge for having been stabbed in the past.

For the purpose of this blog post, the term youth gangs shall be used to describe the category of gang involvement which does not include criminal activity as its purpose. For obvious reasons, none of the boys personal or gang names will be mentioned in this post.

We understand if you are wondering how our stated purpose in South Africa would include gang-involved youth. Aside from benefiting the boys who are directly involved, peace between fighting gangs greatly enhances safety for school teachers, students who are not gang-involved, and the community at large.

Weapons seized from 5 students, prior to the Peace Agreement being signed.

While many fights occur away from school where the boys live, some stabbings also occur on school premises or immediately outside the school gate. Knowing that gang-involved students may bring weapons to school and that a fight could occur during or after school hours poses an ongoing distraction to students and teachers alike. Enemy gangs can also target the younger siblings of gang-involved youth, as they provide an indirect means of punishing your enemy.

Much has been written about why boys and men join gangs, and some of that research has been referenced and quoted in previous blog posts. With youth gangs, the motivation often stems from perceived necessity; namely the belief that one is safer belonging to a gang, carrying a knife or weapon, and walking to/from school with “your crew” to protect against the risk of attack from enemies.

Living conditions for some…

While it is true that some youth gang members are involved in crime against innocent individuals, such as robbing people on the street or stealing from homes and businesses, we would contend that the majority of the boys are not involved in these types of crimes. Drug use tends to be the primary reason for those who do steal, in particular crystal methampehtamine (known as “Tik” in South Africa). Most of the the 5-6 boys currently awaiting trial are facing assault charges from having stabbed a member of an enemy gang.

Two groups (3 members from each) negotiating towards peace. The boys agreed to come unarmed and were driven to the meeting site by Jim.

Shortly after a Truce was signed in April 2015 between 3 youth gangs (different gangs than the 5 who signed the December 2018 Peace Agreement), one of the leaders said to Jim: “you trusted us, so we trusted you”.

If we wait to be trusted before granting trust, the wait may be long. Particularly with at-risk youth whose trust has been violated in the past.

Former enemies, moments after agreeing to peace. The young man wearing dark glasses was stabbed in 2018 and lost his eye. He receives a prosthetic replacement in 2019.

Individuals and organisations wanting to connect with disenfranchised youth living in circumstances which include poverty, drugs, and violence have a powerful set of tools at their disposal. Open, honest, non-judgemental communication in a manner which reflects affinity and a desire to help is more likely to prove effective than lectures, punishment, or violence.

When combined with kindness, empathy, and humour, don’t be surprised if troubled young people soon feel sufficiently safe to reveal the wrongs they have committed and express a desire for change.

Members of Group 1 and 2 signing the Peace Agreement. The background in the following photos serves as examples of living conditions and the environment.

Groups 1 and 2, moments after signing the Peace Agreement.

Group 3, moments after signing the Peace Agreement.

Group 3 displaying the signed Peace Agreement in the shack where they hang out.

Group 4, moments after signing the Agreement in the shack where one of the boys lives.

As soon as the 5 groups expressed interest in a Peace Agreement, the situation on the streets started to change. Even before the Agreement was signed, Jim started noticing guys walking through their former enemies’ Locations. It was strange to see, and initially concerning. But each gang started to relate similar stories: “I was able to walk to the health clinic for the first time in years”. “It’s okay Jim, we are friends now”.

Representatives of Group 5 signing the Peace Agreement in Jim’s car.

There remains much more to accomplish. Schools re-open January 9th for the first time since the Peace Agreement was signed, meaning increased contact between members of the 5 groups. Opportunities such as vocational skills-training are needed for the boys who dropped out of school or were forced to leave due to fighting or stabbing at school.  Maintaining peace now becomes the priority.

Group 5 displaying the completed Peace Agreement – 10 signatures. Update: Boy on far right – stabbed and died Feb 3, 2019 – unrelated to gangs included in Peace Agreement – RIP.

“If you want to know a person’s true character, observe how he treats those who don’t matter”.  Matshona Dhliwayo

Thank you for your continued interest and support,

Janet and Jim

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Reflections

Jason and JayJay – Knysna Sports School cycling program

It’s no secret that Africa has challenges. One might even say ‘problems’. Despite that, there is much to love about Africa.

Former President Barrack Obama said “…Madiba (Nelson Mandela) teaches us that some principles really are universal, and the most important one is the principle that we are bound together by a common humanity, and that each individual has inherent dignity and worth.”

Obama was referring to the African principle Ubuntu. 

One of Janet’s study groups – grades 9-11 Concordia High School

In 2008, Archbishop Desmond Tutu explained Ubuntu as follows:

“One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu – the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity.

We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.”

Basic Carpentry Skills Training – 2018

Imagine a world where everyone, including world leaders, understood and applied the philosophy of Ubuntu. In other words, recognition that we are all in this together and one finger cannot lift a pebble (Malawi proverb).

Despite 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela remained faithful to the spirit of Ubuntu: “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” – Nelson Mandela

Rheenendal community – near Knysna

Soon we will be returning to South Africa. We’re anxious to return, as there is plenty to accomplish in Africa.

The poverty, under-performing education system, and political uncertainty have the potential to be overwhelming, but more so from a macro perspective. At the micro level, where we operate, the risk of overwhelm is more manageable.

On a daily basis in South Africa, we are reminded of the following truth:

“My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours.” We belong in a bundle of life. We say, “A person is a person through other persons.”                      – Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Janet & Jim – South Africa

Thank you for your continued support, 

Janet, Jim, & Clarke

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Defying The Odds

Janet and Jim – Robberg Trail – South Africa

Once again, the time is approaching when we take a break from South Africa and return home to Canada. Thank you to everyone who provide words of encouragement, monetary support, and laptop computer donations. It takes a team, and we appreciate that so many people have remained faithful.

We experience mixed emotions in the lead-up to our departure, but recognize that the time we spend with friends and family in Canada is critical to remaining passionate about our initiatives in South Africa. Our resolve has not diminished, and we don’t want that to change.

White Location (Knysna township)

To acknowledge the obvious…rising above poverty is tough. To say it is difficult is an understatement. Escaping generational poverty, particularly in a country steeped in a history of oppression and racism, remains elusive for all but a few. The majority of South Africans live in poverty and, if you are black or Coloured, your likelihood of being poor is considerably greater.

When we speak of poverty, we don’t simply mean the refrigerator is old. We mean the refrigerator is sometimes empty. And by empty, we mean empty. A few years ago a rather bright teenage boy, Kudzai, opened his empty refrigerator and jokingly said “this is where we store the lightbulb.

Because of your individual donations and support from the Khayamandi Foundation and Moondance Foundation, this promising young man now attends university. And he is one to watch.

Spaza shop (corner store), White Location

World Bank Study on South Africa – Geoffrey York, April 5, 2018:

“Nearly a quarter of a century after apartheid ended, South Africa remains the most unequal country in the world by any measure, and race is still one of the biggest determinants of income and wealth, a new World Bank study has found.

Inequalities are being passed down from generation to generation, “implying little change in inequality over time and perhaps even a worsening of the situation,” the World Bank reported. “Current levels of inequality are likely to persist in the future.”

Poverty and inequality have both increased in South Africa in recent years, the report said. Poverty rates still follow the old geographic and spatial patterns that were created during the era of white-minority rule, a result of the “enduring legacy of apartheid,” the study found.

At the end of apartheid in 1994, South Africa was measured as the most unequal country in the world, although some Latin American countries such as Brazil were at nearly the same level. Since then, the Latin American countries have become less unequal, but South Africa’s level of inequality has barely changed.”

White Location (Knysna township)

Only 8% of grade 8 students attending under-resourced, township high schools in South Africa will attend university. Needless to say, fewer than 8% will complete their university studies.

Only 50% of grade 8 students will make it to grade 12. Only 40% will graduate (matriculate) from high school. In many respects, the 40% misrepresents the gravity of the situation. Reason being that a student can matriculate in South Africa despite their highest mark being only 40 percent. Furthermore, of the 7 subjects taken in grade 12, two only require a minimum mark of 30%.

Knysna – view from the townships

So…how does one defy the odds and escape poverty in South Africa? Based on our observations, by completing a university degree, 3 year vocational program, or equivalent. In other words, through significant formal education. Seems obvious, and relatively straightforward.

Straightforward until we factor in the stress of growing up in chronic poverty, and its documented negative impact on cognitive development. Factor in the days with little to no food, or substandard nutrition, dysfunctional or violent home environments, overcrowded classrooms with up to 50-60 students, and the challenge of living in communities impacted by crime, drugs, and gangs.

For most, the barriers verge on insurmountable. But some do make it, and that’s what is important. We have profiled many such youth in previous blogs, including Thomas, Ben, Aphiwe, Ntokozo, Kudzai, Wanga, Paul, Siyathemba, Daniel, Onke, Ace, Zamela, Junior, Masonde, Axo, Sibabalwe, and more.

Janet and Mandla

One young man who has defied the odds in many ways is Siphamandla (aka Mandla). We met Mandla in grade 10, soon after he turned 18 years of age. Along with each of his siblings, Child Welfare removed Mandla from his alcoholic parents and placed him in the care of an orphanage at 6 years of age. Mandla remained at the orphanage until the age of 18 when he was required to leave.

The home environment Mandla returned to at 18 was as crazy and impoverished as ever. Little had changed. Within months of meeting Mandla, our friends Penny and Ella came to his rescue while we were in Canada. Ella grew up in a similarly dysfunctional home and knew Mandla would never be able to complete high school if he remained with his parents.

Ella and Penny invited Mandla, and his friend Masi, to move into their Safehouse. The boys jumped at the opportunity. Three years later, despite considerable expense (funded by Ella, Penny, Canadian couple Laura & Steve, and other donations), Mandla completed high school. It wasn’t a perfectly smooth journey! Lol. However, to the surprise of some, Mandla defied the odds and graduated high school.

L to R: Masi and Mandla – working with Khayamandi Foundation

Mandla always wanted to be a social worker. It’s a common job aspiration among township youth; they want to help their communities. That being said, few qualify academically for admission into such a degree program.

Mandla was no exception. Despite graduating high school, his marks were poor. He qualified for a 1 year social work auxiliary program, however such programs are only available at private colleges. Private college means no government funding available. The R50,000 ($5,000 CDN) amount Mandla required would exceed the annual household income of most township residents. Cost prohibitive.

Yet Mandla was determined. He had already applied to a private college and been accepted. The deadline to pay a required deposit was quickly approaching. Somehow, Mandla sourced the deposit from a municipality education fund.

Now Mandla needed the big money. It so happened that the Khayamandi Foundation had a mission team in Knysna at the time, and Mandla was working with them for a few days. Long story short, after many discussions and undying determination by Mandla, the Khayamandi Foundation agreed to sponsor Mandla.

Center: Siphamandla (Mandla)

Mandla is now a certified Social Work Auxiliary, employed full time with a youth-development NGO that played a crucial role in his life during the years he resided at the orphanage.

Two weeks ago he was offered a position with Child Welfare, a child protection organization in Knysna. After much consideration, Mandla chose to remain with his current employer. Mandla loves what he does, is implementing new school-based programs, and believes he is making a difference in the community.

Mandla’s parents and his disabled sister have also benefited from Mandla’s education and employment. Multiple lives have been positively impacted.

Mandla defied the odds, but it required the emotional and financial support of many. Thank you to everyone who participated.

South Africa

If you have visited Africa, or call Africa home, possibly these words from author Dana Atkinson will resonate: 

“I dragged myself onto the plane. As it took off, I stared down at Africa, watching her get farther and farther away from me. I told myself…that I had to take what I learned from the land, the animals, and the people and be a better person because of it. I had to make my life have meaning.” – Domestic Departures: A Midlife Crisis Safari, by Dana Atkinson

Janet, Jim, & Clarke

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Don’t Abandon Me

Grade 8 and 11 boys (L to R): Athi, Siyambonga, Jim, Simamkele

While it may be instinctive to react negatively when a boy misbehaves, and feel inclined to abandon him, negative conduct can serve a mentor well. Instead of focusing on the inappropriate behaviour, focus on the reason behind the behaviour.

What is happening in the youth’s life which is motivating the destructive acts, making them seem pro-survival?

“Discouraged children show their conflict and despair in obvious ways, or they disguise their real feelings with acts of pseudo-courage.”   ” …such as attention-seeking or running with gangs.” – Reclaiming Youth At Risk : Our Hope for the Future (Larry Brendtro, Martin Brokenleg)

Bryan – age 17 – home for his family is a steel shipping container with no electricity or running water. Jim helped Bryan return to grade 9 in January 2018 after dropping out 1 year ago to due circumstances at home.

Teaching with Poverty in Mind: What Being Poor Does to Kids’ Brains and What Schools Can Do About It, by Eric Jensen:

“Children who have had greater exposure to abuse, neglect, danger, loss, or other poverty-related experiences are more reactive to stressors. Each stressor builds on and exacerbates other stressors and slowly changes the student.” “Behavior that comes off as apathetic or rude may actually indicate feelings of hopelessness or despair.”

L to R: Jason (14-grade 6), Jay Jay (15 – grade 7), Chaylon (14 – grade 8), Rayno (14 -grade 8). Only 40% of grade 8 students in township schools complete high school.

The Price of Inequality – Joseph Stiglitz: “…the poor know that their prospects of emerging poverty, let alone making it to the top, are minuscule.”

“NIDS- national income study: “…if your parents are among the poorest earners, the chances that you will be income-poor is about 95%.” (Murray Leibbrandt, Director)

Leedunn – Age 17, dropped out of grade 9 in 2016 due to circumstances at home. Jim helped Leedunn return to grade 9 in January 2018.

Professor Ben Turok (The Confronting Inequality Conference): “We also know from historical experience that extreme inequality of the kind of levels we see in South Africa is not good for development and growth…”

Oxfam: “Left unchecked, growing inequality threatens to pull our societies apart. It increases crime and insecurity, and undermines the fight to end poverty.”

L to R: Wanga and Siyathemba

Wanga and Siyathemba represent the future of Africa. We met Siyathemba when he was in grade 8 and joined one of our mentorship groups, and Wanga when he was in grade 12.

You won’t meet better people than these 2 young men; hard working, reliable, and honest. Siyathemba just commenced his 2nd year of a B. Comm degree, and Wanga is completing the final year of a computer science degree.Your individual donations, and support from the Moondance Foundation, are helping Wanga and Siyathemba continue their studies.

Janet’s connections at Cell C (internet provider) helped both guys secure employment during the December-January university break.

Janet and Ace (Andile)

After commencing university in 2016, Ace’s mother passed away and he needed to return home to care for his younger brother, Asanda. Asanda is in grade 10 now and doing well again, allowing Ace to resume his studies. Thanks to generous sponsorship from the Khayamandi Foundation, Ace recently enrolled in a 1 year program in Cape Town to upgrade his high school marks and qualify for admission to an education degree. Ace aspires to be a high school teacher.

Some of the boys we mentor who didn’t complete high school, working with the Khayamandi Foundation for 1 week in January: (L to R) Akhona, Ruwaan, Ruwaan, Reagro, Franklin.

Statistics South Africa 2012 – only 38% of South African fathers live with their children.

Fatherless children are at greater risk of drug and alcohol abuse, suicide, poor academic performance, school drop out, teen pregnancy, and criminality.

Working with the Khayamandi Foundation team (January 22 to 26, 2018).

Don Pinnock – South African criminologist and author: 

“One of the biggest indicators for male delinquency is absent fathers.” “…in the absence of role models, how do young men assert their masculinity?”

“They carry feelings of shame and anger which they generally hide with bravado and, often, violence.” “They are drawn to others like themselves…”. “These kids often turn to violence and aggression…because these are a reliable method for reasserting their existence.” “I hurt others therefore I am”.

Olwethu – age 19, completed grade 8. Currently enrolled in a 9 session carpentry skills program.

Growing up in the Care of strangers – Waln K Brown, John R Seita:
“That is why I started running with a gang. The streets let us escape from problems at school and at home. Home was just a place to eat, sleep, and catch heck.”

Siyabonga (age 14) – returning to school tomorrow, thanks to the determination of friends Tracy, Kurt, Ross, and Lauren.

Epigenetics (by Don Pinnock) – It’s new science that is raising profound issues.

“What was not formerly realised is that, in the assembly of a foetus, the cell membrane mediates information between the DNA’s templates and the environment within which the pregnant mother exists. New life is built on a combination of ancient genetic wisdom and epigenetic responses to what’s happening moment by moment. Nature is nurture.”

Concordia township (Knysna) – 2018

“This means that a mother’s stress, poor nourishment or use of harmful chemicals can alter the way a baby’s brain forms, sending signals to it to adapt to a hazardous environment. It means more dopamine and aggression, less control by the prefrontal cortex, more physical, less reflection. In teenage years this translates into more aggression, higher drug use, lower inhibitions.” – Don Pinnock

Cooling off in Knysna township with a water-filled pylon cone!

“The assumption that youth-at-risk are incapable of learning and/or do not care about anything is a fallacy. They long for adults…willing to make the effort to understand them…” – Janis Kay Dobizl

Thank you for your ongoing support.  Janet & Jim 

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Mentorship

Junior (Panashe) – completing his final year of F.E.T. College.

While the benefits of mentorship may seem obvious, few youth mentorship programs have been subjected to controlled studies regarding their effectiveness. Surprisingly, some seemingly well-designed programs have even demonstrated negative outcomes. Mentorship is a somewhat nebulous term and, while the purpose of mentorship is clear, evidence-based guidelines on how to mentor effectively are less available.

“If it feels at times like you are at the end of your rope in reaching out to them, remember you are the rope – the very lifeline they desperately need and deserve to experience success in their lives (Breaux, 2003).”                                                                    Educating Latino Boys. An Asset-Based Approach – David Campos.

Siyathemba – completing 1st year business degree at University of Western Cape (UWC)

One youth mentorship program for which scientific evidence does exist is B.A.M. (Becoming a Man).

B.A.M. is a mentorship program for at-risk high school boys in some of Chicago’s most dangerous inner-city neighbourhoods. We learned about B.A.M. almost 3 years ago.

Structured like a randomized clinical trial, a University of Chicago Crime Lab study found a 44% reduction in violent crime arrests among B.A.M participants, as well as a significant improvement in school attendance.

L to R: Urhll, Haylen, Max

B.A.M. founder Anthony Ramirez-Di Vittorio: 

“…the most important thing is you have to start with the men who lead the program. We’re looking for men who have a hybrid set of skills that is hard to find. Because we know it’s not the message.”

“The kids have heard ‘Stay in school and stay away from drugs 1,001 times.’ It’s the messenger. The clouds part and the sunshine comes through when the right messenger is there.”

“…at BAM, we’re not talking at the youth.”

Kudzai – completing 2nd year at University of Namibia with financial support from the Khayamandi Foundation, Cooper family, and Iizidima.

“I want to be remembered for making a difference that rippled through generations. The real question and my secret is what difference that will be.” – Kudzai

Ben – completing final year of Computer Science degree at UWC – sponsored by the Khayamandi Foundation.

Reclaiming Youth At Risk: Our Hope for the Future – Larry Brendtro, Martin Brokenleg

“Positive, trusting relationships are the bulwark of success in work with challenging children and youth. This is not a “touchy-feely” truism but is based on a half-century of hard data from research…”

“The most difficult youth are those who create trouble rather than friendships. Successful youth workers have long recognized the…potential of turning crisis into opportunity.”

“Obedience can be demanded from a weaker individual, but one can never compel respect. In most children’s programs, it doesn’t take long to see that adults expect to be treated with more respect than they demonstrate.”

Daniel – completing 2nd year Business degree at University of Zimbabwe with support from family & Iizidima.

“Horace Mann, the leading American educator in the nineteenth century, told teachers they needed to respond to the most difficult pupils like physicians who find challenge in solving difficult cases.”

Paul (left) completes Bachelor of Business Administration degree from TSiBA University in December 2017 with support from a Canadian couple and Iizidima.

Paul Tough, author of Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why

“…best thing is to have disadvantaged kids spend as much time as possible in ‘environments’ where they feel relatedness, competence, and autonomy.”

“The problem is that when disadvantaged children run into trouble in school, either academically or behaviorally, most schools respond by imposing more control on them, not less.”

“Autonomy is not what one is inclined to use to manage the truly unruly kid in the class.”

Wanga – completing 2nd year computer science degree at University of Western Cape, Cape Town with support from family & Iizidima.

“The more they fall behind, the worse they feel about themselves and about school. That…tends to feed into behavioral problems, which lead to stigmatization and punishment…” – Paul Tough

“Fast-forward a few years, to the moment when those students arrive in middle or high school, and these executive-function challenges are now typically perceived to be problems of attitude or motivation.” – Paul Tough

Onke – completing 1st year Business degree at University of Cape Town.

Paul Tough:

“One of the chief insights that recent neurobiological research has provided, however, is that young people, especially those who have experienced significant adversity, are often guided by emotional and psychological and hormonal forces that are far from rational.”

“This doesn’t mean that teachers should excuse or ignore bad behavior. But it does explain why harsh punishments so often prove ineffective in motivating troubled young people to succeed.”

Talking back and acting up in class are, at least in part, symptoms of a child’s inability to control impulses, de-escalate confrontations, and manage anger…”

Thomas – graduated 2016 with B. Tech degree from Nelson Mandela University and currently completing a 1 year internship. A Canadian couple were very supportive of Thomas while he completed his education and sought employment.

Thank you for enabling us to mentor and provide academic support to many deserving youth. The young men whose photos appear in this blog post are all doing well and serve as positive male role models. We have known each of them for a number of years, in some instances since they were in grade 8, and we continue to be proud of their accomplishments.

Janet & Jim

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