Umhlali - Building safer communities through youth resilience

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In a nutshell

The Umhlali project seeks to enhance evidence-based youth resilience against crime and offending behaviour through early prevention interventions that include, school safety, family preservation, early childhood development, access to further learning and skills development opportunities, child protection and social functioning.

What we do

The Umhlali Project is an early crime and violence prevention project based in Walmer Township, Port Elizabeth. It has the overarching goal of designing, implementing and evaluating an early crime and violence prevention project that can be replicated in other areas. 

The project seeks to produce valid and reliable evidence to demonstrate that targeting key elements as part of a comprehensive early prevention strategy will improve youth reliance and decrease the likelihood that they will engage in offending behaviour.

The Umhlali Project focuses on the following intervention areas:

  • Individual people
  • Schools (from preschool to high school)
  • Families
  • Communities

Across these intervention areas, the program works on ten key elements:

  1. School Safety: To facilitate safe, caring school environments, which make learners feel safe throughout the whole lived school experience.
  2. At-Risk Families: To enhance the capacity of at-risk families/caregivers to care and support for their children.
  3. ECD Local Service Delivery: To improve the capacity of local service providers to deliver quality services.
  4. Technology: To integrate the use of innovative technologies, including child-focused ICTs and social media into everyday service delivery activities.
  5. Child Protection Agencies: To improve the extent and quality of child protection response services to child victims of violence
  6. Community & Institutional Awareness: To raise awareness at a community and institutional level of the role of communities, families and caregivers in protecting children from violence.
  7. Youth Pro-Social Decision-making: To facilitate greater power over the choices and decision-making processes among out-of school youths, particularly females
  8. Alcohol & Substance Abuse Reduction: To reduce the use and abuse of alcohol and substances by way of social and health interventions
  9. School Leavers / Drop Outs: Out-of-School Children and Youth and school leavers have access to information on future opportunities available.
  10. Research: To generate reliable, rigorous evidence on what works in child protection to inform policy.

The above 10 key elements are being implemented in Walmer Township over a five year period, using collaboration, partnerships and pooling of resources to maximise impact.

A wealth of resources on issues including family support, child abuse, substance abuse, school safety, online safety and sexuality are available on the Umhlali website:

How we do it

The project consists of three phases:

  1. Planning:
  • Baseline research
    • Interviews with school principals
    • Household surveys
    • Learner and educator surveys
  • Mapping of children’s experiences of crime and violence
  1. Secondary research on the following:
  • Scoping exercise of early childhood development services in Walmer
  • Review of existing ECD capacitation and training materials that are available for use
  • Community mapping exercise regarding ECD support services in Walmer and surrounding areas
  • Review of legislation, budgets and service implementation regarding child protection in South Africa
  • Review of emerging best practices for child protection systems in Africa
  • Development of child protection service indicators
  • Community mapping and scoping exercise for youth access to further education and learning opportunities in Walmer and surrounding areas
  1. Focus groups on the following topics:
  • Early childhood development
  • Youth access to further learning and skills development opportunities
  • Child protection service provision
  • Intervention (programme)design and development
  • Formation of partnerships for service delivery
  • Development of cellphone-based technology

What we have achieved

  • Ingomso Lethu (homework assistance programme with a focus on Mathematics and Critical Thinking) for 90 learners Monday- Thursday
  • Assisting with ECD registration and capacity building workshops for 40 ECDC
  • Offer family preservation services to over 30 families (Social Work services)
  • Coordinated two gender specific programs; positive masculinities for 30 primary school boys and Sister for a Sister for 15 teen girls.
  • Run monthly workshops for school leavers and out of school youth, with a focus on life skills and employment opportunities.
  • Started a 14-week Judo program for 15 out of school youth
  • Coordinate two support groups; family support group and support group for young parents
  • Have provided NSSF training too two schools in Walmer and provide ongoing mentoring and support

What we have learned

Having a strong research baseline has helped in developing relevant programs for the benefit of the community. Whilst we may prepare it is untimely up to the community to accept the programs or not therefor for continuous participatory research with the community is important to ensure the community’s needs are being met.

Map point

Umhlali - Building safer communities through youth resilience
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