Educo Africa serves young people

The Educo Africa team at their headquarters in Pinelands. Bongiwe Mbeki, Siphelele Chirwa, Phathiswa Dewet, Simone Afrikaner, Zanele Mthi, Aphiwe Mbandezele, Andile Lentane, Trinity Netshokotshoko and Lali Mili.

Since 1994, a Pinelands-based non-profit organisation has been doing its bit to build a stronger country… one youth at a time.

Started at the dawn of the country’s democracy, youth development organisation Educo Africa brings young people from different backgrounds together in the country’s great outdoors.

Siphelele Chirwa, Educo Africa’s executive leader, says the organisation was started at a crucial time in the country’s history
to encourage strong dialogue among youth from different backgrounds and to “plan for the new country”.

The youth are mostly aged 18 to 25 and they come from all over the city.

Educo Africa uses a wilderness base in the Groot Winterhoek Reserve of Porterville, three hours outside Cape Town, for its leadership and community programme course.

Ms Chirwa says their national skills fund project helps to get young people into paid internships and many of their beneficiaries, she says, have gone on to achieve success.

Phathiswa Dewet, 39, from Crossroads, joined Educo in 2004 and she remembers taking three days to hike up a mountain at the Groot Winterhoek Reserve.

She now works for the City of Cape Town’s library services.

“If it wasn’t for Educo, I would never have been exposed to these different spheres of government. The organisation believed in me, so I believed in myself that anything is possible.”

Masakhane Matushe, 26, from Mfuleni joined the organisation in 2011 and took part in a leadership programme.

“It helped me to learn a lot about myself and helped me to discover that I have leadership qualities,” he says.

He is now a teacher at Grove Primary in Claremont and is also a qualified counsellor.

Educo Africa now has branches in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and the Northern Cape and helps between 900 to 1 000 people annually, according to Ms Chirwa.

“If the young person’s needs are different to what we offer, we will ask them, how can we help?”

Among other things, they help young people who are unemployed, those looking for leadership skills and those in conflict with the law. They also work in children’s homes.

“We create a platform for giving young people a chance,” she says.

You can find out more about Educo Africa by emailing bongiwe@educo.org.za or calling 021 761 8939.