Computer Literacy boosting employability in Eastwood, Pietermaritzburg Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa
Computer literacy may sound so common to some people as many people have access to it. It was not so for Eastwood, a suburb of Pietermaritzburg, Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa.The community was previously a coloured community, however in the post-apartheid era, it is now dominated by Black people and foreigners who have moved into squatter camps surrounding it.The community is riddled with many social ills, poverty being at its highest.Schools in the area are without a media center (computer room and library). The Eastwood Library sits in the heart of the community servicing 39,711 (thirty-nine thousand, seven hundred and eleven) people who speak various languages.
Generally, 36.1 % of South Africa’s youth (15 to 34 years) are unemployed. This is no different in Eastwood, Pietemaritzburg.The National Development Plan (NDP) calls for all South Africans to work together to realize the goal of reducing the unemployment rate to 14% by 2020 and 6% by 2030. It is quite evident that the youth is the future of South Africa’s economy and they need to be equipped with technical and vocational skills and knowledge to enable them have decent jobs and/or go into entrepreneurship.
Before the INELI-SSAf training, Sunitha did not see the connection between the Eastwood library, the youth and the unemployment challenge. At the AfLIA INELI SSAf program, her eyes were opened to possibilities and pathways for tackling the challenge. She gained a better understanding of the role of public libraries in their different communities and it dawned on her that the Eastwood library was well situated to help young people in the community get employed and achieve their dreams.
The INELI SSAf training equipped her with the skills and confidence to assess the community by speaking to relevant stakeholders to establish the number of youth in the community who are faced with this challenge. She spoke to people as individuals and groups and used a questionnaire where possible to understand the problem and how best to tackle it from the viewpoint of the community. This led her to appreciate what the community wants and expects and not just what the library offers.
The INELI-SSAf training also taught her how to advocate and she used the skill to raise awareness about the challenge and the initiative the library needed to take to tackle it.She spoke out, verbally and in writing, for assistance from government agencies, non-profit and private organizations to ensure the issue is tackled. She sought further collaborations and partnerships to ensure that the library initiative aimed towards lowering unemployment in the community worked.
The INELI-SSAf training also exposed her to how to better utilize spaces in the library, manage time and effectively plan personally and officially as well as develop and implement strategic plans. Furthermore, the mentorship programme of INELI-SSAf and the module on managing and promoting change were all critical in building her up to work on helping young people in her community gain technical and vocational skills that will make them more employable.
The Library gratefully decided to train the students of Eastwood High School on computer literacy to boost their employability quotient. The target group was Grade 12 learners (17-19yrs). They were taught computer basics, Microsoft Office software, basic Internet navigation to help them communicate electronically, search for opportunities online and have skills to perform basic office functions using the computer. The Eastwood Library was turned into a learning environment for 247 young people after school hours and during holidays so that they could learn. Sunitha’s earlier interactions with the community helped the library to decide on these time frames. The training is continuing and is in high demand and very relevant.
The young people are happy as being able to use a computer puts them at a distinct advantage when they apply for jobs. In 2019, 57 learners completed the program, of which 41 gained employment and 51 have enrolled to study via University of South Africa. 109 learners registered for the program in 2020. 47 learners thus far have completed training but due to COVID 19 the program was put on hold and has resumed in 2021. 197 students were assisted online to make applications for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) which is a government funding for learners to further their tertiary education at government cost. 47 learners were assisted to join the South African Youth Employment programme, a government initiative whereby schools employ students and they get a stipend of R3500.
Sunitha concludes her story with these words “INELI-SSAf introduced me to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and helped me to ‘locate’ my community within the development framework thus broadening my knowledge on how to go about supporting and growing development in my community. Importantly, INELI-SSAf has instilled confidence in me as an African public librarian and has motivated me as an information professional to take risks, try and if it fails try again until one gets it right”.Attachments: