South Africa: Youth Taking the Lead in Social Cohesion and Educational Support
13 July 2016

(From Left to Right) Ahmad Cadnaan Omar, an Industrial Engineering student at Vaal University of Technology with Sibongile Nkosi, an intern at the JRS South Africa, Country Office and Social Work student at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and Saheed, an Information Technology student at Central Johannesburg College, at the Radio Veritas studio speaking about the Somali Student Association's academic assistance. (Xolani Mdlalose/Jesuit Refugee Service)
What makes this initiative especially impressive is the fact that it has been initiated by young people, who have a desire to improve their circumstances through their own efforts. Added to this, the initiative also enhances social cohesion.

Johannesburg, 13 July 2016 – What very few know about Afrikaans, is that it is the world’s youngest language, is almost exclusively spoken in South Africa, with approximately 13 million speakers of the language. It has little significant global impact, yet holds noticeable cultural sway in South Africa. Many schools in urban South Africa still teach the language as either a first or second language option and because of its unique nature - with its origins in Dutch - it proves especially difficult to negotiate the language.

Most refugees and asylum seekers that find themselves in South Africa, with their children in public schools, have to deal with the immense challenges of their children being forced to learn a language they share no familiarity with. However, in Jesuit Refugee Service’s (JRS) experience, language is one effective way to cross cultural and nationality differences, differences that could be negatively manifested in acts of xenophobia. Learning a unique local language assists in creating social cohesion amongst refugees, asylum seekers and local hosting communities. Communication between locals, refugees and asylum seekers is made easier as a common language is found for all nationalities to speak as well as an integration into the host community and nation.

A group of Somali tertiary students, understanding the difficulties they faced while completing their primary and secondary education in South Africa, realised that an intervention was needed to assist school learners to cope at school. The Somali Student Association then began to organise tutoring for Somali school learners in various subjects. The tutors are either students at tertiary institutions or members of the broader community, with the necessary expertise, who volunteer their time in providing additional support in improving the academic performances of Somali learners.

Ahmad Cadnaan Omar, an Industrial Engineering student at Vaal University of Technology, along with Saheed, an Information Technology student at Central Johannesburg College, spoke about the academic challenges faced by Somali school learners on the JRS, half an hour radio slot on Radio Veritas, on Monday 4th July 2016. The two provided great insight into how Afrikaans and Mathematics are major obstacles in the academic success of many Somali school learners.

Being passionate about education and the opportunities that it provides, Saheed, Ahmad and the members of the Somali Student Association banded together to provide additional academic support to Somali school learners and address latent attitudes toward education as well. Ahmad and Saheed are forthcoming and admit that education to many Somali youth is obligatory and therefore only go to school because South African law demands it. For many of these youth, education is not a path to a career or a profession however they instead opt to become business people in yet untapped markets in South Africa.

Sibongile Nkosi, an intern at the JRS South Africa, Country Office and Social Work student at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, after hearing many laments from refugee and asylum seeker parents about their children’s difficulties at school, decided to pool resources with the Somali Student Association to find tutors and increase the academic capacity for the help the group provides. Now working with the assistance of JRS, this initiative by these young people is growing and having a significant, positive impact.

What makes this initiative especially impressive is the fact that it has been initiated by young people, who have a desire to improve their circumstances through their own efforts. Added to this, the initiative also enhances social cohesion, as it allows refugee and asylum seeking youth to be part of their hosting communities. The podcast of this inspirational conversation follows below:







Press Contact Information
Gushwell F. Brooks
gushwell.brooks@jrs.net
+27 11 618 3404