Imagine yourself in the position of Nosipho Hadebe. Supported by her grandmother’s pension she holds a good Matric certificate. For 12 years she has walked 8 kilometers to school. She was elected a school prefect by her peers and started a youth choir in her home village. She dreams of becoming an accountant. But given her rural environment and the financial distress of her family her dream is simply a mirage. There is no hope.
Unless there is some help to unlock her captivity she will join the 60% of youth between the ages of 18 and 35 who are unemployed in the country. In the recent heated election debates in South Africa no party addressed this situation which is the taproot of so much crime, social chaos and poor national economic performance.
In the rural north-eastern area of the old Transkei where I work and which has a huge population I would estimate that less than 10% of those children who like Nosipho began school in 1997 have now got a usable Matric. And of these very few have the opportunity to enter the world of third level education. Yet many of these students has great ability. Nosipho comes from a village close to where Oliver Tambo was born.
This rural world of bright, ambitious and hard-working youth is where REAP offers a key to a future of education and skills. Over the years the staff of REAP have been able to engage many of South Africa’s most forward looking companies and foreign partners to support programs to help people like Nosipho Hadebe. Just now and due to such assistance many young qualified South Africans are entering the labor market with the skills necessary to develop our country.
A recent survey showed that while 44% of unemployed South Africans can’t find jobs because they don’t have the skills employers need, half a million vacant positions can’t be filled because people with the right skills can’t be found.
I am proud of REAP’s commitment and achievement over the years. The personal care given to REAP students during their studies ensures that the intention is to develop the whole person and not just provide more economic units. I am happy to be associated with REAP for they are mining the diamonds upon which South Africa’s future prosperity and peace will be built.
Bishop William Slattery OFM
Bishop of Kokstad.