Valued Citizens Initiative, in partnership with Avon Peaking Power, Water Sanitation Services South Africa and the KwaZulu-Natal, will be hosting an Art Exhibition at the Luthuli Museum in Ilembe on Friday 21st of February 2020, in celebration of the power of our constitutional values to enable our youth to become active Valued Citizens promoting social cohesion.

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Over the years there has been a deep-seated sense of loss in the hearts of society and communities regarding how certain professions, previously viewed as vocations, have lost not only their appeal but their dignity and integrity. I dare say ‘ziya jika izinto’ (things are starting to change) and we at Valued Citizens Initiative are enthralled to be at the front line of that change through our Values in the Lead professional development programme.

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Some of the ills within our education system are resolved simply by supplying learners 16 years and older with their democratic right to an identity document (ID) which is vital to their progress, careers and lives.

However, the awful truth in South Africa currently is that the number of children above the age of 16 years without an ID has multiplied. The Department of Home Affairs has simply not risen to the challenge to provide IDs to learners in poor communities since the smart card process.

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On October 13th 2017, Tata Africa Holdings and Valued Citizens Initiative awarded 87 Grade 12 learners after they completed Bridging for Life, a two year leadership programme.

Selected because of their willpower to change their lives after writing a letter of motivation, 100 learners were taken through a journey of self-discovery. They learned to understand their DNA relating to their values, their strengths and weaknesses, and how better to manage their emotions and stand for what they believe in. They then learned soft skills such as self-management, self-leadership, communication, and emotional intelligence (EQ) through experiential learning.

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iVALUE Identity programme in support of “Schools Rights and Lights Campaign”, in partnership with La Voix de l’Enfant and Engie Foundation, is already enabling 2069 learners above 16 from 12 public high schools to get their Identity Document and become active citizens in Gauteng.

Currently, many school children above the age of 16 in South Africa still lack access to their vital life documents such as birth certificates, and Identity Document. As a result, our children lose their sense of identity and face tremendous difficulties when wanting to exercise their rights such as enrolment in schools, writing Matric examinations, right to vote and enjoy social benefits such as being able to purchase a cell phone, search and apply for employment and lead their lives. At Olievenhoutbosch Secondary School, the principal is grateful as she was used to have a tremendous drop out of learners just because they did not have access to this vital right to an Identity Document and some felt at risk as foreigners.

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“My experience today was to touch a white person, speak to an Indian: May this day never end!” said Mpanza Siphokuhle from Tshana High School.

To many, this might come as a shock, shameful and thought provoking. But to Mpanza and 107 fellow learners from 5 public high schools from Mandeni Circuit, KwaZulu-Natal Province this states their need as the youth of South Africa to develop public space where South Africans develop a common language, make a collective contribution to understand one another and build a collective meaning about our Rainbow Nation.

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iVALUE is a two year programme provided to 30 grade 10 learners selected for their zest for entrepreneurship from selected public high schools in Gauteng Province. Personal and collective responsibility, leadership skills and entrepreneurship skills are part of the curriculum we facilitate in 72 hours through creative and experiential learning. This year, iVALUE is currently benefiting 60 learners from two public high schools, namely: Forte Secondary School in Dobsonville and Kwena-Molapo High School in Lanseria, thanks to Strate investing for the third year in iVALUE to ensure that in the medium to long term we create 20% of entrepreneurs which are not just sustaining a family but creating jobs.

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From the 16th to the 20th of May 2016 Valued Citizens Initiative conducted monitoring and evaluation in 10 public high schools that benefited from the iNSPIRE programme in 2013, in Uthungulu District – KwaZulu Natal. The process was to engage all stakeholder’s in interviews assessing their portfolios and evaluating the impact of this leadership programme at individual and collective levels in schools.

According to the Kwa-Zulu Natal Department of Education: “Many adolescents are vulnerable to sexual exploitation and HIV and AIDS infections due to unusually high levels of poverty. The problem is further exacerbated by limited knowledge of sexual reproductive health (SRH), rendering adolescents vulnerable to making unhealthy lifestyle choices.”.

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Grade 9-11 learners participating in the Sondela Dialogue programme supported by the National Department of Arts and Culture and the Gauteng Speaker’s Forum were anxiously awaiting the upcoming Budget Speech by Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan, following the State of the Nation Address by President Jacob Zuma and the economic turmoil South Africa faces.

Our 178 Valued Citizens learners from Westonaria, Olivenhoutbosch, Forte, TM Letlhake, Randfontein High schools have been vibrant during the Sondela Dialogues raising their concerns about corruption paralysing our country. Our learners engaged – “As citizens we are not victims, we should stop echoing one another, and rather be the voice taking responsibility for our words and actions!” stated learners from Forte and Randfontein High Schools.

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Valued Citizens Masilo Bopape and Lethabo Tau from Forte High School, and Obakeng Seageng with his teacher Jason Fisher from Randfontein High School, felt heard on the Talk Shop led by Naledi on SFAM on the 9th of March 2016, reporting on the Sondela Dialogues.

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In Ilembe, Amajuba and Ulundi in KwaZulu-Natal, and West Coast in Western Cape, our School Management Teams have agreed that their school’s vision and mission are very often dated, and not known by all stakeholders. The focus is on Excellence in Education but not defining it. Firstly, they had to reflect on the meaning of key words forming part of their vision. It was noticed how the articulation of the school’s vision is essential as it makes a school unique, strengthen the values we wish to internalise and experience through behaviour from our teachers, learners and parents and it should form the spine of how we deliver teaching and facilitate learning.

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During April 2015, 19 grade 11 learners from Kwena Molapo High School near Lanseria addressed a panel of four judges, using their newly acquired knowledge of business management and entrepreneurship delivered their feasible business ideas. Over recent months, in groups, they brainstormed their ideas and presented them to the panel with the hopes of being selected to receive start-up capital for their business plans. This was a Strate initiative. Two groups were selected as viable candidates –Matrix Play and iHealth. Matrix Play is an internet service provider to learners at their school, while iHealth aims to accelerate living a healthy life style for schoolchildren and educators.

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Sondela enabled 166 learners from 5 high schools: Randfontein, Westonaria, TM Lehlake, Olivenhoutbosch and Forte High Schools. We engaged as citizens in the community on two dialogue sessions, followed by a creative session where the values and moral belief systems were transferred onto canvases in the production of 25 visual artworks.

The theme addressed: In a state of economic turmoil, as citizens are we going to carry on blaming the “other” – government, foreigners, load shedding, poverty and one another – or are we going to take responsibility in creating a platform to treat self and others with dignity and honour what we can do together as citizens?

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It is undeniable that today major challenges affecting the youth include teenage pregnancy, abuse of substances, peer-pressure, and high vulnerability linked to poverty. Crying out to be heard, for support, and connection with positive role-models, our youth has found a platform through the iNSPIRE Programme.

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The Bridging for Life programme, endorsed by the Department of Higher Education and Training and piloted by Alcatel-Lucent, prepares learners for higher education and training with the teaching of essential life skills.

The results of the Class 2014 are: at Ikatisong Secondary School in Lethlabile township in North West and at Ponelopele Secondary School in Ivory Park, our Bridging for Life learners obtained a combined 96,2% pass rate! Well over the national pass rate of 75.8%! And 43% of our learners have qualified to enrol for a Bachelor of Arts, 47.3% have qualified for Diplomas and 1 in every 5 students who followed this two-year programme has obtained at least one distinction.

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From the 29th of March 2014 until the 2nd of April 2014, Valued Citizens Initiative led its iNSPIRE Camp, a self-development journey with eighty Grade 9 girl learners from eight public high schools from Parys and Kroonstad, thanks to NLTDF. Day one, was filled with shy personalities that were scared to get to know one another, Jessica Khenyane from Randpark Secondary School said, “It almost feels like Grade 1 all over again, I could decide to shy away or shine within”.

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