During the second last week of February, delegates from across the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Region assembled in Durban to learn, to share best practices and to network at the annual Care and Support for Teaching (CSTL) and FutureLife-Now! Sharing Meeting.
Over a hundred people participated, online and physically, with 14 of the 16 SADC Member States represented, as well as FutureLife-Now! partners such as UNITAR, UNICEF and Save the Children International. Dr Lamboly Kumboneki of the SADC Secretariat set the tone with his informative and insightful keynote address: Reaping the demographic dividend—realising the potential of Africa’s youth, which provided food for thought that delegates mulled over and discussed long after Dr Kumboneki had finished. A group of four young adults responded directly to the address, providing youth perspectives that were interesting and thought-provoking. Other major themes that were discussed over the three days included Building back better as part of COVID-19 recovery;
The following is a departure from our usual news stories. It’s a moving account of inspiration and transformation, written by Lumba Mwale (not her real name), a learner in one of the Zambia FutureLife-Now! schools.
It is often said that your past doesn’t have to determine your future, and this is very true for me. I have transformed from an ugly caterpillar to being a wonderful butterfly that is soaring above the ground. Here is my story.
I am now an 18-year-old girl. I come from a broken home. My parents divorced when I was 10; after that, everything started going bad. My mother was a pastor and travelled a lot, but after she had a stroke she couldn’t do much anymore. After she stopped work and my father left, my elder siblings started smoking and drinking,
FutureLife-Now! schools in Zambia are greening their future, and it shows. The 10 schools have embarked on youth-led, climate change projects that include developing the necessary skills learners need to engage in tree-planting and vegetable gardens projects.
One of these schools, Mwembeshi Secondary, has set itself the target of planting 2 500 trees by the year 2025. The FutureLife-Now! Programme is helping to make this a reality by providing materials such as fertilizer, and implements like spades and hoes, irrigation pipes, shade-netting and seedlings. It also provided the school with 250 trees.
In 2022, each of the approximately 300 learners in Grades 8, 9 and 10 was given a tree seedling to take care of. The learners pot the trees until they are ready to be transplanted in the ground, provide water and check them for pests. When necessary, they also re-pot the trees if they show signs of stress.
Agriculture is the most important sector in Malawi’s economy. It employs over 80% of the population and contributes approximately 70% of the country’s foreign exchange earnings. This means that the current price increase of chemical fertilizers has adversely affected a large part of Malawi’s population and has resulted in dire food shortages due to the poor harvests of many subsistence farmers.
Recognising this gap in the economy, and with the support from the FutureLife-Now! Programme, learners from Mbinzi Community Day Secondary School in the Lilongwe District have started producing low cost and environmentally-friendly composted manure.
Impressively, it was the learners of the Climate Change Club who initiated the project. They produce the composted manure from a mixture of ash, maize bran and water, adding only a small proportion of chemical fertilizer: the resultant product is very cost-effective since one bag of chemical fertiliser produces five bags of composite manure.
Lesotho’s Ministries of Education and Training and of Health have long recognized the importance of the linkages between them for aiding young people to access youth-friendly health services. Both have used the former’s Extracurricular Risk Reduction and Avoidance Handbook for Youth to assist learners and out-of-school youth to cope with the challenges they face growing up—such as developing positive relationships and protecting their sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR)—and to improve the situation they find themselves in their communities.
However, the manual has been in existence for some time and the Ministries felt it was necessary to include three new components—modules on nutrition (nutrition in adolescence, household food security, maternal nutrition and nutrition and HIV), climate change and gender-based violence (GBV)—and to update the handbook generally to bring it in line with current trends: hence the workshop. As she explained in her opening remarks,
In recent years, so much research, writing and action has been directed towards the girl child, but little or practically nothing was done for the boy child. In fact, the phrase “boy child” has only come to prominence recently. Even in the FutureLife-Now! schools, there is a lot of work done by other organizations specifically for girls. For example, one of these organizations has recently built a state-of-the-art girl’s toilet in one of the schools.
Such work is, of course, salutary and necessary, but FutureLife-Now! recognises that boys too have needs; they too are vulnerable. To truly address gender-inequality, those vulnerabilities also need to be addressed. Boys and young men feeling neglected later causes many of the gender-related problems that we see in our communities.
FutureLife-Now! in Zimbabwe started boys mentorship clubs, the main purpose of which was to give boys a platform to talk and discuss the issues that they face,