#HenleyAlumni

The power of education gives 26 Joburg youngsters the chance to hope again

The power of education gives 26 Joburg youngsters the chance to hope again Reformed Number gangs’ member Welcome Witbooi has teamed up with Henley Business School Africa to pay it forward by giving South Africa’s youth a glimpse of the future they could build for themselves. On three consecutive Saturdays in October a group of…


The power of education gives 26 Joburg youngsters the chance to hope again

Reformed Number gangs’ member Welcome Witbooi has teamed up with Henley Business School Africa to pay it forward by giving South Africa’s youth a glimpse of the future they could build for themselves.

On three consecutive Saturdays in October a group of 26 young people from underprivileged communities in the greater Johannesburg area arrived by bus at Henley Business School Africa for a taste of a student life that many thought was beyond their grasp.

The youngsters were participating in a unique programme designed by the Centre for Conscious Leadership & Institution of Grace in partnership with Henley Business School Africa and the Bright Spark Foundation and facilitated by Henley faculty volunteers, that aims to break the spiral of hopelessness that leads so many young South Africans into the clutches of gangs – by helping them to see that there are better options open to them.

“We stand in gratitude, emotions were high on the weekend, as we concluded the first phase of our three weekends Youth Intervention Through Education Programme,” said Welcome Witbooi, Director of the Brightspark Foundation SA and chief instigator of the initiative.

For the youngsters, some of whom are school goers and some who have already dropped out of the system, this was the first time they’d set foot on university grounds, let alone a business school campus. For many, joining a gang – following in the footsteps of many of their family members – is a far more likely prospect than going to business school.

Witbooi who is himself a graduate – and current student – at Henley Business School Africa, is also no stranger to the pervasiveness of gang culture and how entrenched it is within communities.

Recruited by the notorious 28s gang when he was 12, Witbooi was jailed for attempted murder at 17 and quickly rose through the ranks in prison becoming a four-star general by the time he turned 25, making him the youngest member in the history of the Number to make general. It took another seven years in prison and a lot more bloodshed before he decided to change his story and extract himself from the gang – a feat that very few have achieved.

But once he had served his sentence and returned to the family home on the Cape Flats, he was horrified to find that the youth in the area looked up to him – for all the wrong reasons; they wanted to be just like him – a gangster.

It was then he knew that his future lay in helping the youth become something more than their circumstances dictated and the Bright Spark Foundation was born.

“Welcome role models what it means to improve your own life circumstances by making better choices,” says Dean and Director of Henley Business School Africa, Jon Foster-Pedley. “This partnership programme is an inspiring initiative that seeks to equip young people with the skills and hope to do the same.”

Foster-Pedley adds that the initiative fits perfectly with the Henley Africa’s values and vision. “At Henley Africa our mission is to build the people, who build the businesses, that build Africa. While our programmes cater for post-matric, NQF level 5, right up to master’s level with our international MBA, it makes sense for us to reach out to young people even earlier to complete the chain of development.

The 26 participants proudly received a certificate of completion from Dean Foster-Pedley, who had a word of encouragement for each of them. “They say you must teach what you want to learn and create opportunities for teaching so you can learn from others. And this programme has definitely achieved that. We at Henley have learned as much from these wonderful and talented young people – each of whom was able to clearly articulate an alternative future they want to build for themselves – as they have from us,” he said.

“The purpose of the programme is to inspire and not try to frighten these young people,” explains Witbooi. “Scare tactics don’t work on our youth. So many of them have fathers, uncles and brothers in prison. If anything, prison is familiar to them rather than scary. It’s easy for them to connect in prison.

“We want these youngsters to know that they have a future if they are prepared to seize it; we want to show them that they are worthy; that with hard work and dedication they too could end up at Henley Business School despite the poverty into which they have been born because sponsorships and scholarships exist if you are prepared to work for them.”

Watch the video: https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6992426594820624384/

Similar posts

Get notified on new Learning insights

Be the first to know about new  our latest newsletter insights