If education is the key to empowering young women, then what is being done in small communities to do just that for women and young girls? Whose responsibility is it? Community leader Ntombozuko Jafta has taken this task upon herself through her nonprofit organisation which works with educators and social workers in her Eastern Cape community.
For her latest intervention, Jafta partnered with Accountability Lab South Africa to host an Accountabili’tea’ Conversation on expanding education and literacy opportunities amongst girls in disadvantaged communities.
The event took place in KwaNobuhle, a large township on the outskirts of Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape. It was made possible thanks to the Danish Embassy in South Africa.
Held on 16 October 2020, it included panelists with backgrounds in social work, academia and literacy advocacy. They included Ntombozuko Jafta, Integrity Icon 2020 winner Unathi Filita, Zanele Hobongwane and Siyabonga Betsha.
Joining them was a representative from iKamva Development Centre. Thisani said: “If there’s one thing that can fix all the problems we have as a nation, it is education… A person who has studied is independent.” Thisani said that it is important for women to be able to navigate through the world on their own. Something as simple as the ability to read a sign, will allow women the ability to move on to something with the potential to be greater than their current circumstance.
However, in light of the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic, the face of education has changed, leaving the classroom and entering our homes. This has forced educators and students to rethink the way they approach education. “The lockdown was not only hard on students, it was also hard on us as parents. We didn’t know how to do things like apply for NSFAS (The National Student Financial Aid Scheme) online,” said Jafta.
The panel also discussed how many girls could not be physically present at school, emphasising the importance of technology in education. However the lack of this brings our inequalities as a nation to the surface, they pointed out, as those in rural and township areas did not have the necessary tools and access to engage with remote learning. As one panelist noted: “Although we all have a basic understanding of how to operate a phone, many are unaware of how it can be used as a powerful device in the education process.”
A long-term, sustainable solution to this issue is finding a mentor within the community, according to Filita. As mentors, women can create an environment where other women feel confident, through education and creating spaces within the community like critically thinking forums.
The event was a robust and engaging one, that got the community thinking about how to find solutions, and opportunities.
Speaking to ALSA after the event, Jafta said that thanks to the event, the community was able to bring on board other stakeholders, including VW Community Literacy. “Now we are starting a community campaign: One Girl One Book, [and a] debate and homework club.” – Nontshisekelo Shange