Mpho Mudau was born and raised in Limpopo, South Africa, and moved to Gauteng when she was 14 years old to continue with her education in the province that’s considered the economic capital of South Africa.
Mudau, now 24, says she had high hopes about her relocation, especially for prospects of a future where the economic hardships her family had experienced would make way for economic security.
“But life isn’t always straight-forward,” she tells Global Citizen. So, she had to make do with her circumstances. “My sister, whom I live with, doesn’t have a permanent job and school was a challenge for me,” Mudau says.
She has a problem with hearing, and often fell behind with her school work because she went to a school that didn’t have the resources to cater to students whose needs were different from the majority.
She dropped out of school in 2013, with only grade 11 as her highest level of education.
“I was determined to not be defined by my challenges,” she continues. Mudau registered at a technical college (which encourages academic and practical skills) in 2014. Then it was time to face yet another challenge: youth unemployment in South Africa.
The country, it has been widely reported, has among the highest rates of youth unemployment in the world. Those aged 15 to 24 are the most vulnerable, with unemployment rates in this demographic hitting 55.2% between January and March 2019.
Mudau lived with this gloomy outlook for four years (between 2015 and 2018), but she remained hopeful, and eventually managed to register for an accounting and bookkeeping course through a long-distance learning academy.
She completed her studies but her attempts at entering the job market were still unsuccessful.
Even among graduates in the 15-24 age bracket, according to StatsSA, the unemployment rate between January and March 2019 was 31% — up 11.4% compared to the final few months of 2018.
Mudau is still looking for a job but she says she is more confident than ever about her prospects. That’s because she now has information technology and programming skills learned at Kitso-Lesedi Youth Development Centre.
Aimed at empowering young people with critical tech and entrepreneurial skills, Kitso-Lesedi is based in Primrose, in Germiston in the East Rand, and supports young people from the informal settlements in the area.
Thapelo Matshete, the centre manager at Kitso-Lesedi, tells Global Citizen: “The purpose of Kitso-Lesedi is to serve young people who would otherwise fall through the cracks.”
“Some moved to Gauteng in search of better opportunities that never materialised, some got stuck in substance abuse, and others simply face a lot of challenges,” she says.
These young people need mentors or an organisation in their corner. Matshete has become that mentor to many: rooting for them, helping them overcome their challenges and see a future for themselves that they sometimes struggle to imagine.
“A future,” Matshete says, “where one can go from having no knowledge of computer systems to being employed by Microsoft, which is what happened to two of our recent graduates.”
This future is made possible by Kitso-Lesedi’s partnership with Cisco. The technology company is a long-term Global Citizen partner — and on stage at the Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 on Dec. 2, 2018, Cisco committed to prepare 10 million young people worldwide over five years for jobs in the digital economy.
Since then, Cisco has prepared 2.15 million people to work and thrive in the digital economy. The Cisco Networking Academy is an internationally-recognised IT skills and career programme that’s offered free of charge to learning institutions.
Over the course of the 5-year programme, Cisco will work with 26,500 instructors at 12,100 learning institutions and organisations in 180 countries to deliver the Networking Academy courses on topics like networking, cybersecurity, and programming.
Cisco will then also use its Networking Academy Talent Bridge programme to connect students to job opportunities and to get students hands-on experience with Cisco partners.
The Academy was launched in 1998 in South Africa, and has partnered with colleges, universities, vocational schools, and public sector and non-governmental organisations.
Cisco has reported that it’s making strong progress on delivering the commitment made at Mandela 100. In fact, 95% of students agree that the Networking Academy has made a positive impact on their lives, and 94% of students report that the skills they’ve learned through the Networking Academy have been important to their career overall.
“Kitso-Lesedi has empowered my life,” Mudau explains. “I told everyone about my hearing problem, and in turn I was provided with all the support I needed.”
As well as ensuring that she was not left behind during classes, Mudau was also offered additional tutorials and other academic support.
“Kitso-Lesedi has allowed me to dream again,” she adds. “My course lasted three months, and already my life is starting to progress. I have three IT certificates, in IT essentials, coding, and an international computer licence.”
Mudau adds: “My future has never looked this bright.”
The work being carried out by Cisco to empower young people into the digital job market is just one example of the many extraordinary commitments made at Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100.
The festival, at Johannesburg’s FNB Stadium brought together world leaders, business leaders, activists, and philanthropists together with some of the world’s leading artists and a crowd of some 70,000 Global Citizens — in a marathon of music and activism in honour of the year that marked 100 years since Nelson Mandela’s birth.
To find out more about how the actions of Global Citizens in the run-up to Mandela 100 are changing lives in South Africa and around the world, you can read the full 1-year anniversary impact report here.