Thirty previously unemployed youth proudly bid farewell to the Southern African Wildlife College after completing a 12-month training for a National Certificate in Resource Guardianship. The training programme, which is aimed at helping safeguard Africa's threatened species, is part of a youth development programme initiated by the College, funded by the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) Jobs Fund and supported by the Rand Merchant Bank Environment Fund, the Welverdiend Community and Kruger National Park.
The students' graduation ceremony and passing out parade, held on 14 November 2013, was both an exciting and sombre affair for them as it marked not only the end of a year's intensive training, but also the beginning of new chapter as they take up full-time employment in Kruger National Park, which is part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park.
Mr Qolani Mongwe, the student representative said, "We came in as young unemployed men with no real future. Today we leave as proud young men committed to saving our wildlife, which is under threat. In addition, we now have the means to support our families and help educate our communities about the importance of safeguarding our natural resources."
The students could hardly contain their happiness on the day of graduation. Pictured from left are: Goodwill Sibuyi, Goodwill Ntimana and Qolani Mongwe, the student representative
This positive spirit was echoed by Mr Simon Marutha, HR Manager for Kruger National Park, who said that they were ready for the graduates and told them to keep motivated and to work towards their goals.
The keynote speech by Mr Luvuyo Mali, representative of the DBSA Jobs Fund, brought home the situation, saying that the graduates had a unique position to fill in the workplace now that they had been trained. "This project is an example of what the government is doing to try and help young people to become gainfully employed, whilst also underpinning the government's efforts in trying to help curb the rhino poaching onslaught." He encouraged the students to do themselves proud by using the training and mentorship they had received to help support their families, communities and our wildlife.
Seen at the graduation were (from left) Luvuyo Mali – Jobs Fund, Clive Poultney – Southern African Wildlife College, James Jack Manzini – student, Dumisani Khumalo – Jobs Fund and (kneeling) James Lourens – African Field Rang
Both Mrs Theresa Sowry, CEO of the Wildlife College and Mr James Lourens, the students' mentor and instructor, spoke of the positive spin-off the training has. "These students have experienced personal change that goes way beyond the scope of education," said Mrs Sowry.
As part of this youth development programme, the DBSA's Jobs Fund will support the development of a further 60 unemployed youth to be trained at the Wildlife College over the next two years. The skills development of the students will be further supported by Kruger National Park and other employers such as Mpumalanga Parks and Tourism Authority and Limpopo Department of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism, which will also help to ensure that all the graduates are gainfully employed.