More and more young South Africans are passing matric, only to then find themselves faced with a dilemma when it comes to further options available to them.

What happens to those young people who pass matric, but don’t get into their preferred courses at tertiary institutions? And what happens to those that can’t afford tertiary education, regardless of grades?

Chief executive officer of 100% not-for-profit social enterprise Relate Bracelets Neil Robinson says there is a large number of “lost ones” – those people who manage to pass matric, and then hit a “brick wall”.

Robinson says there are multiple facets to this dilemma: Some can’t afford to pay large tuition fees, some need to enter employment straight away to support families, and othersscrape through high school with what is technically a pass but not enough to enter tertiary institutions.

Earlier this year, the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) stated that a true reflection of the matric results from last year is that the education system managed toproduce less than 20% potential university entrants.

“The rest of the learners achieved low quality passes restricting further development.”

Robinson asks what happens next for those who pass with a low matric: “Where are these people going to? What are they going to do?”

One aspect of Relate Bracelets, a Cape Town based non-profit which sells bracelets in support of a number of worthwhile causes, is the provision of training for young, motivated people to help them find their way in the employment landscape.

“We aim to uplift, to empower and to impact, because there’s a gaping hole in the current system.  These young people don’t have any hope and they don’t know where to start,” says Robinson.

This youth development initiative ensures that those chosen to participate are provided with employment as bracelet closers and packers for Relate. They make a living working for Relate, are provided with compulsory training (based on their pre-stated choices), and when they leave Relate they leave able to pursue earning opportunities in their respective fields of interest.

“We want to show our commitment to them,” says Robinson. “The goal is that while they are working here, we are also impacting their lives. We want to create earning opportunities, while upskilling people during their time here.”

Sibusiso Ntisana has worked with Relate since September. Having always wanted to pursue a career in the hospitality industry, he will be starting a Butler training course in April.

“I am so, so excited,” he says. “This is a stepping stone to what I really want to do. I’ll be learning so much of the industry this way. It’s unleashing such potential.”

Ntisana adds that he plans to open his own traditionally-African themed hotel and restaurant one day.

“When guests come to my hotel, they will be able to say ‘Now, I am in Africa!” he says.

Relate, according to Robinson, is an organization that is all about changing lives. While they essentially make beaded bracelets, those are simply tools to support the causes that the organisation represents: the grandmothers in the townships who spend their days beading to feed their families, and the young closers and packers embarking seeking opportunities to improve their lives.

Another young Relate employee, Anezwa, says she is working and studying to become a paramedic to support her three young sons. One day, she says, she would like to be a nurse. While she had considered becoming a teacher, she says her chosen path means she can look after her sons and they can look up to her.

“I just want to help people,” she says.

“I’m going to get the experience, for my kids and for my community.”


This article was originally published on The South African

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