Minister of Social Development, Albert Fritz addressed young hopefuls at the first ever Youth Excellence Awards on Monday evening. Speaking to VOC News before the ceremony, Fritz said the Western Cape Government has prioritized the empowerment and development of young people in the province. Through recognising the efforts by individuals and institutions, Fritz and his department hopes to further assist them in their plight to better the lives of the youth.
Receiving an honorary Ministerial Award for Excellence was local High School, the Leadership College, situated in the middle of Manenberg on the cape flats. The independent run school offers learners an opportunity to achieve the best results regardless of their domestic circumstances.
The school’s director, Mrs Ashra Norton grew up in the bustling area where poverty and socio-economic challenges are the order of the day. However, her vision to bring privilege education to the underprivileged youth is now bringing a positive change to the community.
“We began with just forty seven students, now we have five hundred. Last year alone, we were able to achieve a 87% pass rate at our school while the average for the matric pass rate in Manenberg was only 43%. Our students pay no school fees and neither do they pay for a uniform, text books, stationery or extramural activities. We receive 60% funding from government and the rest is up to us to generate through sponsorships,” Norton said.
While the operation of the school is unbelievable to many in the community, Norton attributes the success to not only determination and hard work but believes that there is a need to address the social ills in the community through positive support from school and allowing the pupil to be a part of something great.
“Our students are recognised not as ‘learners’ but as leaders. We refer to them as leaders only. We are teaching young leaders of their generation through a holistic approach backed by Islamic ethos and remind them that one day when they do make a success of their lives, they should plough back into their communities so that we can put an end to the vicious cycle of poverty,” Norton explained.
Upon accepting the prestigious award on Monday evening, Norton said she had no idea that the institution would be honoured in such a way.
“When the minister invited me, I thought he had invited me as a guest. The award was a big surprise and this just gives us that push to keep on,” Norton said.
The institution will be receiving a prize of R30 000 in addition to the award, as a financial push for the school and its development, Fritz told VOC News.
The school’s head boy, 17 year old Lonwabo Mkonzo said the school and its Islamic ethos has taught him more about other beliefs and allowed him an opportunity to do achieve more than he ever expected.
“Here we are a family. We work together, seven days a week and the teachers treat us with care. For me this is the best school because you get that one-on-one with teachers and you never feel afraid to ask them help whether it be for school work or even problems at home,” Mkonzo said.
The school operates seven days a week, with a focus on sports on Saturdays and Spiritual guidance on Sundays. According to Norton, the pupils only leave school at 17h30on a week day. These are some of the efforts Fritz acknowledged at the school and further said that regardless of the gang violence and poverty within the community, the school never made excuses in their pursuit in achieving only the best results. VOC (Ra’eesah Isaacs)