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South Africa: Young reporters learn the ropes at school

Since 2010, South Africans have celebrated Nelson Mandela International Day to mark Mandela’s birthday. Many people in the country, both young and old, honour his legacy on July 18 by volunteering and performing community service.

Sibusiso Mazibuko spent Mandela Day planting crops in the garden of a childcare centre in Tembisa township, north of Kempton Park, an eastern suburb of Johannesburg. The 17-year-old taught young children how good agricultural practices can reduce the effects of climate change and fight food insecurity, two subjects about which he is passionate.

He says: “For the last four years, my mom has been growing spinach, onions and tomatoes in her garden at home. She taught me that it’s important to plant vegetables for our family.”

When he’s not teaching young children how to grow food, Mr. Mazibuko is an aspiring documentary filmmaker. He is a member of the Youth Press Team at Tembisa Secondary School. Mr. Mazibuko can often be seen carrying one of the iPads, microphones or tripods provided to the club through iSchoolAfrica, a nation-wide educational initiative.

iSchoolAfrica launched the Youth Press Team project four years ago, as South Africa prepared to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup. With the international spotlight on the country, the initiative gave youth a platform to share their stories with the world.

iSchoolAfrica currently works in 20 under-resourced schools across South Africa, providing appropriate technologies to improve classroom learning.

Michelle Lissoos is the project director at iSchoolAfrica. She says: “They started off filming using a handheld camera and then edited their work [afterwards]. Now, they can film and edit [on] one device. We have a facilitator who trains the educators at the school.”

Mr. Mazibuko says: “Working with the Youth Press Team at my school makes me feel I can produce and develop my own documentary films. I’m going to apply [to] the London Film School in the U.K. if I can find a scholarship or bursary.”

John Aphane is one of Mr. Mazibuko’s teachers at Tembisa Secondary School. The 31-year-old teaches more than 200 students every year. He has seen Mr. Mazibuko excel over the last three years, becoming a senior member of the Youth Press Team.

Mr. Aphane says: “The Youth Press Team gives a voice to the community. [Mr. Mazibuko] found a passion for media after joining the team. He’s written some stories and is currently working on a movie with other students.”

The teacher adds, “Mandela Day was an important occasion to understand the role Mr. Mandela played in the history of this country and to learn to do something for others.”

The late Nelson Mandela believed strongly in the power of education. He once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

For his part, Mr. Mazibuko says he learned that selling vegetables at the market can help parents pay their children’s school fees. He would like to grow enough food so his mother can raise the money to send him to university. He sees film as a way to make real change in the world.

He says: “My mother taught me that it’s important to plant and water vegetables, as agriculture can help people by feeding families. I have learnt for myself that telling stories can educate people.”