In a nutshell
A youth activation project that enables youth to contribute towards making their communities safer. The project views youth as change makers who play a decisive leadership role in shaping and improving community life and reversing the current crime trends. A peer-learning approach is applied.
What we do
Youth for Safer Communities builds on Masifunde’s work as a non-profit organisation that “provides educational support in a holistic and sustainable manner to motivated learners from previously disadvantaged communities … educational support includes bursaries, life skills training and extra-curricular activities in the fields of arts, media and sport”.
Aware of the destructive role of crime and violence in the communities served by Masifunde, the organisation designed an intervention to address this, using a tried and tested methodology. This approach and methodology sees youth as agents in society who actively shape their own destiny and have the potential to become peer educators.
How we do it
The process began with a research phase late in 2012. This was conducted by Masifunde’s learners themselves and involved a detailed engagement with stakeholders to develop an in-depth analysis of the impact of crime and violence on young people in Nelson Mandela Bay. The research also explored factors that cause young people to participate in crime and violence.
Stakeholders included non-governmental organisations, such as the South African National Institute for Crime Prevention and the Reintegration of Offenders (NICRO) and Families South Africa (Famsa), community police forums, academics and the local business sector.
The research was conducted by learners in grades 10 to 12 who participate in the Masifunde’s Learn4Life programme. Masifunde’s youth journalists for its Walmer’s Own magazine also participated in the research team, which comprised about 45 young people.
The action research included visits to relevant institutions such as a youth prison, rehabilitation centres, public spaces, police stations and private security companies. The intention was for each grade to visit at least two institutions.
According to Jonas Schumacher, managing director of Masifunde, the objective was for participants to become young experts in the field of crime prevention and understand systematic approaches to public safety.
The participating learners spent eight days at a summer camp where they consolidated the information and developed the first draft of a workshop methodology based on their research findings. The aim was to present this workshop to other learners.
In June 2013, the workshop method was refined and youth facilitators from Walmer Township were trained to present the workshops. The workshops targeted 2 000 learners at 25 high schools in the Nelson Mandela Bay area, including both state-funded and private schools.
The workshops took off with a collaboratively developed song entitled I Can Make a Difference that encapsulates the aims and ethos of the project. The song was composed and performed by jazz band VuDu and hip hop crew Geniuses, both from Walmer Township, and features the Masifunde choir. You can watch the video of the song in the gallery at the top of this page.
The workshops were well received by participating learners, who came from diverse backgrounds and represented 225 schools.
One of the methods used saw participants carrying out a safety mapping exercise to understand the nature of public safety in their communities and areas. The safety map is a drawing of a community with its range of facilities, from spaza shops to parks, indicating those areas where people feel safe and unsafe. Through the workshop participants were challenged to develop project ideas that they could implement in their communities to make them safer.
The development of project ideas to improve public safety gathered momentum as the workshops rolled out, with workshop participants finding this process interesting, practical and positive as they envisaged their communities as being safe. The method also encouraged the participants to share their experiences, particularly experiences of crime. Workshop participants responded well to the peer learning method that was used in the workshops, which encouraged participation from all attendees.
The workshops were facilitated by two learners each, with each learner facilitating between two and three workshops. Sessions were held on school premises outside of regular school hours.
Participants who put forward the best ideas on how to make their communities safer were invited to participate in a city-wide youth conference. This marked the culmination of the 2013 workshops. At the three-day conference learners worked in groups to develop project ideas that could be implemented by Masifunde, with young people acting as lead agents in making their communities safer. The workshop drew to a close with participants choosing the best ideas for implementation in 2014.
Building on the successful roll-out of Youth for Safer Communities in 2013, the programme was extended. The 2014 school workshops are being facilitated by the 2013 facilitators who matriculated, and they are paid a stipend for their work.
What we have achieved
The project had high attendance rates and a positive response from participants.
Attendees completed questionnaires after each workshop. Their responses will be used to gauge the success of the programme and inform its development going forward.
According to project manager Linda Zali, response to the peer-to-peer learning approach has been particularly positive. And as managing director Jonas Schumacher points out, involving the 2013 “graduates” as facilitators in 2014 provided a significant self-confidence boost for these young people.
What we have learned
The project managed successfully to overcome challenges that were encountered along the way. This included a sustained effort to get the schools to participate in Youth for Safer Communities. The initial idea was to run the workshops during school hours, but teachers were not supportive of this and the compromise was to move the workshop times to afternoon slots.
There was no public sector support for the project.