#AfterSchoolYouthLeaders – Sophumelela Ketelo: Sophumelela Youth Development Programme

Sophumelela Ketelo is the Chairperson and Founder of Sophumelela Youth Development Programme (SYDP). The organisation was established in 2017 and is led by a group of young leaders. SYDP recently became a grantee of The Learning Trust in 2021.

Based in Makhanda, Eastern Cape, SYDP aims to:

  • Uplift learners from three underperforming high schools in Makhanda through after school support programmes.
  • Foster the spirit of paying it forward in University students, by creating opportunities to engage high school learners through mentorship and tutoring.
  • Eradicate socio-economic issues faced by high school learners through working with various stakeholders to provide life skills education.

    With a large pool of volunteers from Rhodes University and Midlands College, SYDP successfully implements after school programmes for Grade 10-12 learners in the areas of academic support, mentoring and psychosocial support. The programmes are meant to create a space where youth can focus on schoolwork and pass with minimum academic and socio-economic challenges.

    We reached out to Sophumelela to learn more about what drives his passion as a young leader in the After School sector.

    What inspires you the most and motivates you to thrive in your role?

      I am inspired by those people who are able to make something from nothing. These days it is so easy for us to complain and ignore or forget what we have. To see someone who on a daily basis gives 100% in order to better his tomorrow motivates me to understand that we are capable of far more than we can imagine.

      One of the most amazing things which motivate me is to see the youth realising that yesterday does not determine your tomorrow, but one needs to be active today. It becomes overwhelming then to see someone inspired by your actions, also consciously and intentionally taking a decision to do the same for others.

    As a youth leader, what do you hope to achieve through the work that you do?

      To recognise a generation that brings back Ubuntu ebantwini (humanity to human beings). We have lost humanity, but thank God that we have not lost it entirely. We are still capable of bouncing back and recognising that our time is now and no one will change our circumstances for us except us young people. Humanity helps people respect, love and be kind to one another. Without it, we treat each other negatively without even thinking twice about the outcomes and consequences.

    In your opinion, what is the significance of celebrating youth month, especially in relation to children and education?

      At this point I would not concentrate much on celebrating. Yes, there is room for us to celebrate, however, we need to also look at how far we have come, where are we now and where are we going. Youth month for me should be a time to reflect and criticize our actions, with the intention to make positive impactful change.

      The 1976 youth is known for fighting for education, and in their time, they burnt schools, and even today young people fight for education and still burn schools. Let us review and see what is it that we are missing. It can’t be that we are complaining about lack of resources, lack of funding, poor administration, yet we then burn the very same limited infrastructure we have.

      There is still a lot that we need to look at when it comes to education in public schools; lack of infrastructure, resources, personnel, crowded classes, alcohol and drug abuse. I believe that these issues need to be attended to by community members who partake, assist, protect their learners in schools. We can’t celebrate the youth of 1976 by destroying what they have fought for.

      Let’s appreciate and give acknowledgement where its due; school infrastructure has been improved, free education has been implemented in some schools and there are well funded in TVET colleges and Universities.

      Our unsung heroes, we celebrate you. Siyanibona, ningadinwa.

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