Category: Enterprising School Leavers | Employment/education opportunities for particularly vulnerable groups | 25 January, 2013 - 04:36← BACK
The Katorus township community on the industrial East Rand of Johannesburg is large, cut-off from the main commercial centres and has been riddled by extreme violence for decades. This township conglomerate is home to nearly 2.5 million people. Katorus is characterised by high levels of poverty, crime, violence, HIV/AIDS, sexual abuse, domestic violence, gang activity, teenage pregnancy, school absenteeism/drop-out, alcohol and substance abuse. Members of the community cannot help but be affected by these serious challenges. The children and young people are most affected.
Ekupholeni Mental Health and Trauma Centre provide holistic psychosocial support focusing on youth at risk, gender violence, HIV/AIDS and bereavement. Because of the chronic poverty suffered by our clients we also implement an economic empowerment intervention offering skills development, job placement and small business establishment.
Psycho-social counselling and crisis management has turned out to be insufficient to sustain the pro-social behaviour of many of the young people that we work with after therapy has ended. Many of them can see alternatives to criminal or anti-social behaviour at an intellectual and theoretical level, but struggle to put such alternatives into action without on-going support. Mostly they need an income to disassociate successfully from dysfunctional families, gangs, and violent surroundings. But at the same time many of them have learning disabilities or are orphans and have no means to get an education or training that will lead to a job and an income. Their parents and families have also never or very rarely been consistent bread-winners, so they cannot assist with advice on job seeking, CV preparation, interview conduct or work ethic. Neither do they have the knowledge and means to find out about studies, skills training, or bursaries, nor the finances to pay for a course. In addition, many of the youth have learning problems, mostly due to lack of stimulation in early childhood combined with neglect and missing months and years of schooling. Through our work with them we hope to achieve the following:
Children, youth, and sometimes their parents come to Ekupholeni for critical emotional and social support. We are usually the last port of call. Many of our clients are youth who have lost one or both parents, who have dropped out of school, are involved in criminal activity or display such severe behaviour problems that neither schools nor parents still want them around. At Ekupholeni we engage them in individual and group therapy processes as well as sports which is offered three days a week in addition to counselling. The sport activities draw them in and encourage discipline, routine, team work, temper management, and negotiation skills. All these skills will be necessary for them to function in society, to study further, or to find and retain employment.However, this is not enough. We also conduct home and school visits, place children and youth back at school if feasible and assist with family dispute resolution. The more severely behaviour disordered youth and the orphans are integrated into long-term group therapy groups.
The Kickstart Program was designed to be a bridging program to ease the young people who had successfully completed the therapy component into a sustainable and pro-social life, including skills to sustain themselves in dignity without having to fall under the spell of gangs or Sugar Daddies. Through the programme youth complete individual skills and aptitude assessments and then make a selection of an appropriate course of study or skills training with the help of our Economic Empowerment Officer and the Social Worker. We guide the process and then also negotiate course costs, discounts, possible family contributions, transport arrangements, check-ups, etc. The young person is then expected to attend that chosen course, complete with good results, seek and secure a job, and earn a sustaining income that provides personal pride, dignity and a barrier and buffer against falling in with the “bad crowd” again. This, we hope, will also have a role-model-effect on other youth in the same community.
Ekupholeni has excellent links to various local skills training centres, colleges, as well as the University of Johannesburg. These institutions know that our youth have been counselled and screened carefully and attend regular feedback meetings with the social worker. This means fewer drop-outs, and a solid referral opportunity should a young person hit difficulties or struggle with learning, or fail to attend. This has also led to significantly reduced fees for our clients. The university assists us with bursary applications for our orphaned matriculants who have shown good results at school but have no financial means whatsoever.
How the programme is implemented
Case Study: Anthony Mashaba was assisted to do the carpentry course at St. Anthony’s Skills Training Center. He then got himself a job and now supports his family. He also managed to get his sister, Theressa Mashaba, enrolled at UNISA. He pays for her study fees but requested if we could support her with books.
Advice to other psycho-social support programmes who would like to implement a similar programme
Natalspruit Hospital, Katlehong 1431
Ekupholeni Mental Health and Trauma Centre provides holistic psychosocial support focusing on youth at risk, gender violence, HIV/AIDS and bereavement in the Katorus township community on the industrial East Rand of Johannesburg. As part of their programmatic offering they are also implementing an economic empowerment intervention called Kickstart for the youth that they counsel. In this learning brief they discuss their aims for the programme, explains exactly how it is implemented and gives advice to other pyschosocial support programmes that would like to implement a similar programme.