28 October 2020, Johannesburg – South Africa has a tremendous opportunity to capitalise on the opportunity presented by its youthful population (20,4 million 15–34-year-olds by Q1 2020), but doing so will require the empowerment of the youth through education, skills development programmes and job opportunities. One NGO at the forefront of achieving this is the Good Work Foundation (GWF), which runs innovative educational programmes to empower rural youth helping them gain access to employment, entrepreneurship and further education opportunities.
Konica Minolta South Africa is the sole partner of GWF’s Conservation Academy, which is a second-year skills development programme for adult learners who want to pursue a career in conservation, guiding, or environmental studies. In addition, Konica Minolta South Africa also supports the conservation component of GWF’s Open Learning Academy programme, which aims to foster a love for nature, wildlife and conservation within learners from a very early age (Grade 4 and up).
“The Conservation Academy, made possible by Konica Minolta South Africa, is so important because it provides young people from local communities with a platform to understand, love, connect with- and take care of the natural environment. Our aim with this initiative, is that by the age of around 18 years old, when these young people reach the Conservation Academy, they will be already fiercely passionate individuals who will become wildlife warriors and over time, we can develop local skills and talent to feed the economy of wildlife around us,” explains Kate Groch, founder and CEO of Good Work Foundation.
The inspirational journey from student to teacher
Programmes such as these can have an incredible impact on these learners who have limited access to opportunities. They are able to access modern educational technology and programmes to upskill themselves, with support from GWF’s facilitators, thereby becoming more employable and ready for their future workplace.
One such example of the potentially life-changing impact of these kinds of initiatives is Sibusiso Mnisi, who himself is a GWF alma mater, having studied English, digital literacy, and computer skills amongst others in 2014.
“My first highlight since joining GWF was travelling to the Eastern Cape (first flight and first time seeing big game in person) in 2016 for a kids’ training programme. We went to Amakhala Private Game Reserve along with learners from a local school, and were taught how to educate pupils around conservation. Thanks to a passion for the environment and a lifelong dream of becoming an educator myself one day, I managed to win an Ecological Silver Award under the Youth category in 2018 and got to attend the Business of Conservation Conference in Rwanda in 2019 (my first international trip) through GWF. Without the support of Konica Minolta South Africa, none of this would have been possible, because they opened the doors to my career path,” says Mnisi.
Today, Mnisi is a full-time member of the GWF staff, in the role of Conservation Academy Coordinator, which sees him facilitating this yearlong adult learning programme. He also assists in coordinating the Open Learning Academy Conservation curriculum. This holistic programme for Grade 4 – 8’s predominantly aims to come alongside the government education system by teaching the languages of access – English and Mathematics – through digital mediums. The Conservation curriculum aims to grow a love and concern for wildlife, wild spaces, and the conservation thereof, in the hearts and minds of young learners. “We are really proud to be involved with this programme and to be a partner of Good Work Foundation, as they are playing a crucial role in expanding the opportunities and access to skills development, education and jobs for the youth of our country. By so doing, they are helping to empower these young people to not only have a share in the prosperous future of the nation, but also enabling them to become leaders and shapers of young minds themselves like in the case of Sibusiso,” says Laetitia Coetzer, Chief Human Resource & Development Officer at Konica Minolta South Africa