It’s a rainy afternoon when we arrive at Nkomo Primary School, in Mnqobokazi, a small village within Hluhluwe town in northern KwaZulu-Natal, a province in South Africa.
The school’s 51-year-old principal, Nomusa Zikhali, approaches us with a smile and a gentle handshake as she welcomes us to her office in a school she first started for a handful of students under four hulking trees.
Zikhali was born and bred in this dry corner of Mnqobokazi. Teaching was always her passion.
“When I was young, I used to play school with my friends and I was always the headmaster. I used to love being a teacher or I’d be a social worker because I loved working with people,” she says.
Zikhali had it tough growing up. She ran away from home, as her father wanted to marry her off at the age of 16.
“I left school in standard eight because my father believed I was old enough to get married. He wanted 11 cows, so I was supposed to get married to a man with five wives,” she says.
Her older brother suggested she relocate to big city: Johannesburg.
“He also didn’t like the idea of me being married at a young age, so he wanted me to go and stay with him and his girlfriend, who worked as a domestic worker in Johannesburg,” says Zikhali.
“I was scared and confused; I didn’t think I would survive. I didn’t even have an ID or passport, so I had to hide at the house where my brother’s girlfriend worked. I sometimes felt lonely and intimidated by the huge buildings, big city lights and busy lifestyle.”
Even here, life was not easy but she managed to survive for two years.
Zikhali and her brother’s girlfriend sold street food – fat cakes and polony – in Ellis Park, commuting by train every morning. Her R500 ($37) profit bought her a ticket to return home. It also brought her face-to-face with her future husband. He benevolently offered to pay for the 11 cows her father wanted.
“On my way home I met my future husband on the bus; when I told him about my story, he offered to pay for the cows.”
At 18, she got married but personal tragedy was in store. Tears well up in her eyes as she relates the story of her two-year-old son’s death in 1994.
“He was burning, I went to the clinic and the nurses told me that they only treated emergencies on weekends. I was turned away and at night he got worse, he had a fit and died on a Monday morning before I could return to the clinic. I couldn’t accept his death, I almost went crazy,” she says.
She channelled the pain into completing matric. She couldn’t go to university because she had to take care of her mother-in-law who had had a stroke.
Because of her love for mathematics, she volunteered at a school as a teacher for seven years without pay.
“I decided to register part-time at the Rand Afrikaans University for a teaching course through correspondence,” she says.
She noticed that the nearest school was 20 kilometers by foot, so she wanted to build a school nearer, and approached the education department, which approved her proposal, but didn’t have enough money to fund it.
“I started the school alone in a hard-to-reach area where I was supposed to walk and cross a flooded river with a handmade boat with 35 children every day.”
She had to move to a rondavel [an African-style hut] on the other side of the bank for two months.
This made teaching difficult as nature continued to conspire against her.
The floods worsened, and the number of students in her school shrank from 60 to 25.
Zikhali was forced to look for a better, safer location. The site she finally settled on only had trees but no brick-and-mortar infrastructure, whatsoever. But under those four majestic trees, she set tables, wooden mats and a stove where she cooked meals for the children.
“I decided to make one of the trees my office; whenever you came to the school you would wait for me in my office; and I used the others for grade 1, 2 and 3. I was the only teacher and had to teach the different grades at the same time,” she says.
Zikhali asked the Africa Foundation, an independent non-profit organization, for classrooms; they built two.
Sixteen years later, the school has 20 classrooms, 860 children and 26 teachers. Zikhali also opened a center for orphaned and vulnerable children.
“I decided to do some home visits after school and saw that the situations at their homes were not alright. There are some children who have bad mannerisms; I don’t push them away, because it’s their way of crying out for help, there’s usually a story behind a child’s behavior.”
Khumbulani Ngwane, a 30-year-old plumber and electrician who was taught by Zikhali, recalls how learning under the trees taught him perseverance.
“The situation was difficult, especially on rainy days; sometimes we’d bring planks and used them as chairs and others would sit on dirt. But that whole experience taught us to never give up in life. As much as we were learning from text books, we were also trained on how to handle life problems.”
Ngwane’s parents died when he was young; his mother was shot by robbers and his father passed away following an illness. Zikhali took him as her own.
“She’s an amazing person,” says Ngwane. “She basically raised me and opened so many doors for me and others in the community without expecting anything in return.”
Zikhali plans to retire in 2020 and continue with her community projects.
Hopefully by then, her rain cloud will have a silver lining and her children a roof over their heads.
With proper investment in youth, Kenya’s potential for progress is unlimited
By- Ruth Kagia and Siddharth Chatterjee
Africa’s demographic boom has been hailed as its biggest promise for transforming the continent’s economic and social outcomes, but only if the right investments are made to prepare its youthful population for tomorrow’s world.
Consider this. Every 24 hours, nearly 33,000 youth across Africa join the search for employment. About 60% will be joining the army of the unemployed. Africa’s youth population is growing rapidly and is expected to reach over 830 million by 2050. Whether this spells promise or peril depends on how the continent manages its “youth bulge”.
President Kenyatta once said that “The crisis of mass youth unemployment is a threat to the stability and prosperity of Africa, and it can amount to a fundamental and existential threat”.
Investing in young people especially so that they are prepared for the world of work is the main mission of Generation Unlimited (GenU), a global multi-sector partnership established to meet the urgent need for expanded education, training and employment opportunities for young people aged 10 to 24.
On 05 August 2020, Kenya will launch the Generation Unlimited initiative. This initiative will bring together key actors from the public and private sector as well as development partners to help put into a higher gear this defining agenda of our time to ensure that we have prepared our children for a prosperous future by giving them the education, training and job opportunities that fully harnesses their potential. With a median age of 18, Kenya’s youthful population represents a real potential to reap a demographic dividend and accelerate its economic progress.
Kenya has one of the youngest populations in the world. With the right investment in their talents, skills, and entrepreneurial spirit, young people present an extraordinary opportunity for transformation, growth, and change.
Three quarters Kenya’s population is under the age of 35. Across Africa there are 200 million people between the ages of 15 and 24, a demographic that is expected to double by 2045.
One of the greatest challenges facing governments and policymakers in Africa is how to provide opportunities for the continent’s youth, in order to provide them with decent lives and allow them to contribute to the economic development of their countries. As things stand, around 70% of Africa’s young people live below the poverty line.
In Kenya, the pillars for achieving GenU objectives are in place, with various initiatives for instance to strengthen education system through the recently-launched competency based curriculum and government promotion of programmes to enhance technical and digital skills.
The fruits of such initiatives can be seen through numerous youthful innovations from Kenya that continue to receive international attention. For instance, inspired by his great urge to communicate with his 6-year-old niece who was born deaf, Roy Allela, a 25-year-old Kenyan invented Sign-10, a pair of smart gloves with flex sensors to aid his cousin’s communication with the other members of the family.
The flex sensors stitched to each finger aid in quantifying the letters formed from the curve of each finger of the glove’s wearer. The gloves are then connected through Bluetooth to a mobile phone application that vocalizes the hand movements. This innovation won him the Trailblazer Award by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
Gen U’s solution is to forge innovative collaborations with young people themselves. Since launching in 2018, the movement has brought onboard leaders from governments, foundations, and the private sector around the world. Its launch in Kenya underscores its government’s commitment to engage young people in pursuit of the Big 4 Development Agenda as well as Vision 2030.
President Uhuru Kenyatta is a global leader for the Generation Unlimited initiative. In Kenya, Gen U’s activities are coordinated by the Office of the President and the United Nations.
Shifts in today’s global economy demand that young people acquire skills aligned with dynamic labour needs, but local education systems have been slow to adapt. In many countries in Africa, school enrolment is up, but learning outcomes for young people remain poor. Most leave school without the skills the contemporary job market needs, and are ill-prepared for a world in which low-skilled jobs are increasingly automated.
A million young people join the workforce every year in Kenya, applying for jobs in a formal sector that can only absorb one in five of them. Some, however, find work at least intermittently in Kenya’s vibrant informal sector, which accounts for more than 80% of the country’s economy according to the World Bank.
Rather than focusing on opportunities in the formal sector, partners in the Gen U movement will look at strategies for supporting the informal sector with better infrastructure and an improved business environment. In doing so, it is hoped that it will be transformed into a recognised and legitimate sector.
Such initiatives have the full support of the recently launched Kenya Youth Development Policy, which seeks to underscore issues affecting young people. Technology will play a central role, and sector-based strategies will be central to the government’s approach.
The Kenya Youth Agribusiness Strategy, for example, will enable Kenya’s youth to access information technology for various value-addition ventures in Africa’s agribusiness sector set to be worth $1 trillion by 2030.
The Coronavirus pandemic has seen countries face changes in entire social and economic systems. Key industries, including manufacturing, healthcare, public services, retail, transportation, food supply, tourism, media and entertainment have been hard hit by the pandemic. The pandemic is an inflection point that is giving the old system a nudge. The post-COVID-19 world will be founded on a tech-savvy workforce that will inevitably comprise young people.
Calling on urgent action for young people, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called on governments to “do far more to tap their talents as we tackle the pandemic and chart a recovery that leads to a more peaceful, sustainable and equitable future for all”.
In the run-up to the end of the SDGs era, we must ramp up the current level of investment in young people’s economic and social potential. As the vision of Generation Unlimited states, if the largest generation of young people in history is prepared for the transition to work, the potential for global progress is unlimited.
As President Kenyatta has noted, “the current generation of young people has the potential of expanding Africa’s productive workforce, promoting entrepreneurship and becoming genuine instruments of change to reverse the devastation caused by climate change.”
Ruth Kagia is the Deputy Chief of Staff to President Kenyatta. Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya. Mrs Kagia and Mr Chatterjee co-chair the Generation Unlimited Steering Committee in Kenya.
OPEC And Its Allies Are Ready To Boost Production, But Here’s Why An Oil Market Recovery Isn’t Guaranteed
After record production cuts in April intended to prop up the market amid a demand crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the world’s largest oil producers are expected to ease up on the restrictions and begin to increase their output next month.
- Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the other members of OPEC+ will meet Wednesday to discuss the current market situation and debate future production limits, the Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend, adding that most delegates in the organization support loosening restrictions.
- As lockdown measures ease across the globe, demand for oil is slowly beginning to rise again as shipping and air travel resume.
- Oil prices are still down significantly from pre-pandemic levels, however, with the Brent international benchmark priced at about 30% of January levels.
- The International Energy Agency said Friday that while global demand for oil had recovered strongly in China and India in May, world demand is still projected to decline during the second half of the year before recovering in 2021.
- The recent spike coronavirus cases and new lockdowns are creating “more uncertainty”: additional lockdowns could discourage travel and international trade, which would put more downward pressure on prices.
- The risk to the oil market is “almost certainly to the downside,” the IAE said.
In April, the members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies agreed to record oil production cuts of 9.7 million barrels a day as the coronavirus decimated global demand for crude oil. The agreement put an end to a weeks-long price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia that added even more pressure to an already-struggling market.
“If OPEC clings to restraining production to keep up prices, I think it’s suicidal,” a person familiar with Saudi Arabia’s thinking told the Journal. “There’s going to be a scramble for market share, and the trick is how the low cost producers assert themselves without crashing the oil price.”
Zindzi Mandela passes away, aged 59
Zindziswa ‘Zindzi’ Mandela has died. The 59-year-old is believed to have breathed her last in a Johannesburg hospital in the early hours of July 13, Monday, SABC is reporting.
Zindzi was the daughter of struggle icons, South Africa’s former president Nelson Mandela and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, and currently serving as South Africa’s ambassador to Denmark.
In December 2014, Zindzi graced the cover of FORBES WOMAN AFRICA alongside her mother, a year after her father’s death.
She lost her 13-year-old granddaughter, Zenani, in a car crash after a pre-tournament concert during the 2010 FIFA World Cup that took place in South Africa.
In 2018, her mother Winnie, passed away.
Zindzi is survived by her four children, husband and grandchildren.
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