Celebrating a training milestone experience

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Facilitating a learnership for unemployed matriculants in an informal settlement


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Facilitating a learnership for unemployed matriculants in an informal settlement.

When my colleague and I met a group of 12 young men and women from several communities stretching from Lehae to Henley-on-Klip in the south of Johannesburg in July 2016, we had no idea of the impact we would have on each other’s lives.

Chantal Gomes and I are corporate business trainers by profession. Our company, options in training, had entered into a contract with a training co-ordination organisation to train this group of enterprising, yet unemployed, Gauteng millennials.

All were matriculants, who had completed English and Mathematical Literacy proficiency assessments in order to embark on this Level 3 End User Computing (EUC) National Certificate learning opportunity. A generous donor company sponsored the costs for the entire learnership. This included a monthly stipend for each learner, designed to cover travel and food costs for the training days throughout the year-long training.

In order to make the experience as accessible as possible for all, student-trainer contact/teaching time took place several times a week at the Lerato Educational Centre in Eikenhof. We were welcomed with open arms by the school board, staff, principal and young Gr 1-3 school pupils.

Being an ex-teacher myself, I confess that I have never seen such a work ethic, sense of responsibility and self-discipline from such young children …nor have I experienced such fierce pride and protectiveness for the school premises from the local mums who ensure that the school is not vandalised!

We were humbled by the generosity of the Lerato Educational Centre community, who offered us a newly donated prefabricated container classroom to use. At first, we were equipped with tables and chairs, and a blackboard. There were no working power points, pens, notebooks or toilet paper. Chanty and I, along with some very helpful students, built some serious arm muscles as we toted the learner portfolios, extension cords, plugs, chalk and extra stationery supplies to class every day!

We all learned to see daily life through the eyes of others; we became more understanding, patient, innovative, and most of the time, more tactful! When were often helped by enthusiastic school kids to clean our classroom after a day’s work, we developed appreciation and mutual respect across the age divide.

As learner needs were identified, different people stepped up to meet them. Our training company provided stationery, student bags and a white board. The educational centre connected the electricity to power the new laptops each student received via Dr Bruno Pauly, networker extraordinaire and director of the Lerato Board! This meant that the students could complete their EUC assignments in between training sessions. Even after teaching time, the learnership group had access to the classroom to charge their laptops and to work in.

Each learner contributed to the price of their laptops from their stipend, engendering a sense of responsibility. It meant that they earned the right to keep them once the learnership was completed.

In the latter part of the learnership, our group of twelve were placed in jobs to gain valuable work experience. They faced travel challenges, but were given great opportunities to learn, even if they were not directly related to their gradually increasing computer expertise. Several of the students continued to work for their host company for a time after the learnership had finished.

Our graduation ceremony took place a year and six months after we began our journey together, on 10 February 2018. We celebrated the achievements of eight successful candidates, with some stirring words from three local DA councillors; one of whom is our local MP. All speakers spoke of the rewards each graduate received; a nationally recognised MICT SETA accredited certificate, a network of contacts, mentors and a sense of accomplishment based on persistence, hard work, trial and error. However, their over-riding message was that it was each graduate’s responsibility to take those gifts and put them to work. As Nelson Mandela said, ‘A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.’

By Michélle MacKenzie BA(Ed)
Photograph credits to options in training

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