“I’m a small girl with big dreams!” – Zamajozi Sithole
Zamajozi Sithole, 28, from Durban, is currently based in Johannesburg, where she works as a Project Officer for the Youth Leadership Programme at the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, together with being part of the Mandela Mile Leadership Programme of 2021.
She believes that young people have major potential and enjoys learning about new cultures and languages.
“I am a young person who believes in the potential that young people have. I believe that Africa will rise again, and the youth will be at the forefront of that revolution.”
We chatted more to Zamajozi about her take on the youth in South Africa in honour of World Youth Skills Day.
Tell us a little bit about yourself:
I am a small girl with big dreams (LOL). On a serious note, I am a young person who believes in the potential that young people have. I believe that Africa will rise again, and the youth will be at the forefront of that revolution. I am passionate about youth-related work, and would love to expand my experience in this field. I love learning about new cultures and languages. In fact, I just enjoy developing myself thus my participation in youth programmes such as Mandela Mile and ACTIVATE. I hold a undergrad degree in psychology, but I hope to become an educational specialist and a UN speaker one day.
What does being a Project Officer entail?
Being a project officer for an organisation that is dedicated to improving the wellbeing of children, and to amplifying their voices, is such an amazing opportunity. I do not take the work we do here lightly. In fact, I use that as my northern star throughout this journey. Knowing that I am here to serve and to represent the millions of young people in this country.
Is there an event or story you would like to share that has impacted you during your time as a Project Officer?
In 2019, we went to Mtubatuba to conduct a children’s dialogue about the environmental impact the mining has in the area. It was so encouraging seeing so many children attend the event and to also participate in the programme and have fun. The children were thrilled to finally be “noticed”, and to actually be given a chance to share their thoughts on the issues that affect them. That event reminded me that the children and youth of this country are very aware of the challenges in our society, and they want to be part of the solution. We are not a lazy generation; we are just overlooked and dismissed due to our age.
What work have you done in your community to assist in improving the livelihood of those in your community?
I have an NPO called Umthombo weMfundo Foundation. We used to conduct information sessions for grade 9 learners, to help them choose wisely when it comes to subjects for the FET phase. We also use to speak to parents as well, and encourage them to be more involved in their children’s education and to stop expecting the teachers to handle everything. My NPO works mostly with schools in the townships, as I feel that they do not have access to a lot of services such as career guidance.
What are some of the issues affecting youth and what are your recommendations on combating them?
The high youth unemployment rate is a huge problem here in South Africa. It is more worrisome to note that our government does not really seem to have a plan to address this. I believe that if this issue is addressed than other issues such substance abuse and the involvement of young people in criminal activities etc. will also see a significant decrease. What I think government needs to do to combat this is to continue to fund and support young entrepreneurs through the NYDA, give an incentive to businesses that provide internship or learnership opportunities to young graduates (and these opportunities should be minimum 1 year), and finally the affirmative action or BEE regulations need to be reviewed to include young people. A company should receive tax incentives not only for hiring black people or women or disabled persons, but for hiring young people as well.
Why do you think it is important for us to honour our youth?
We are the future. I believe that it is important to start investing in young people now. Shape them and nurture them to what you want them to be tomorrow. If our leaders see a bright future for this country, then they need to start working on that future now, and it starts by honouring your youth, and ensuring that they have the right tools and knowledge to succeed and to compete in the wider world.
I know it is hard. I know the odds are against us. I know there is too much pressure on us to succeed. I know we have all reached a point where we just felt so tired and wanted to give it all up. But my message for you today, is don’t give up. Keep hustling. Keep believing. Keep fighting for a better tomorrow for yourself and your family. YOU GOT THIS!!!
What is your vision for our Nation’s youth?
My vision is for the youth of this nation to be more open minded, to challenge their thinking, to question whatever information is presented to them. To be a generation of critical thinkers, innovators and hard workers. I think that the reason why our leaders think they can do whatever they want with this countries resources (and they do get away with it), is because young people are quiet. When we are the ones that should boycotting and lobbying etc. because if we do not fight for this country, there will be nothing left for us to even live in.
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