Masibambane pupils win award

Africa Unite board members at the organisations annual award ceremony, from left, are: Rampe Hlobo, board member; Brilliant Nyambi, youth co-ordinator; Slindokuhle Hlazo, children programmes manager; Vincent Williams, chairman; Laurnelle Dalon, human rights peer educator; and Zoe Nkongolo, director.

Pupils at a Kraaifontein high school are learning to be leaders by seeing their school as a country and themselves as the politicians running it. And they’ve done such a good job that they’ve clinched a top award.

The Masibambane High School walked away with the Africa Unite School Club of the Year Award last Friday during a glitzy awards ceremony and banquet at the Cape Town Civic Centre.

Africa Unite is a human rights and youth empowerment organisation. The Africa Unite School Club gets pupils at participating schools to see their school and surroundings as a country. Each club is led by a “president” and five “ministers” together with 50 “parliamentarians”.

A delighted school teacher Zoe Bikwana praised Masibambane’s pupils for their hard work.

“I’m so excited I don’t know what to say. I didn’t expect that we were going to win it. I dedicate it to the school and pupils, particularly those who are participating in Africa Unite School Club. This is a great achievement,” she said.

Ms Bikwana said they had started the club last year with the help of one of the co-founders of Africa Unite, Zoe Nkongolo.

“Mr Nkongolo approached us after he saw the way our school was dedicated to serving the community. There are lot of activities and programmes that we are doing, including debating, anti-bullying and social services. Bullying and gangsterism are our main challenge so far at the school,” said Ms Bikwana.

The school’s pupils also do outreach programmes, visiting old age homes to entertain and help the elderly and collecting clothes for orphans.

She urged other teachers to get involved in Africa Unite and help their communities.

“The more our schools get involved in these clubs the better our societies become because when pupils are doing nothing they end up getting involved in bad things. It also builds their self esteem because they are visiting other neighbouring schools and learning about other people’s cultures,” she said.

Africa Unite youth co-ordinator Brilliant Nyambi said they helped young people become activists in their communities. “We have a strong focus on building social cohesion especially in Cape Town where young people are still living in spaces apartheid created. So, we want to break those barriers, but, more importantly, we want young people to realise they have rights and one of those is a right to education.”

Mr Nyambi said Africa Unite helped pupils set their own agendas and tackle their own challenges at schools. “They see school as a country. They form a school club where they have a president and five ministers for finance, social development, public relations and information, environment, and health. Each minister has their own role and responsibility. They develop their agendas and partner with the communities because the club doesn’t only focus on the school and they become the agency of change,” said Mr Nyambi.

He said programmes were designed to help pupils tackle challenges specific to their schools.

“For example, in many schools, since they have minister of finance, they do fund-raising on their own. And they also do a lot of things that build and improve their schools,” he said.

A Grade 12 pupil and former “minister of public relations and information”, Ayanda Thamela, said he had learnt a lot through the programme.

“I used to be shy when I’m standing in front of people and I would avoid the argument. But now, I can lead people. I can stand in front of them without fear. I can even raise my opinion. And Africa Unite encourages us to be united and stop xenophobia,” he said.