Helping youth prosper to beat the odds

ABC for Life members, from left, Nyara Purazi, Val Toledo and Brian Slender are hoping the career guidance programme will open new doors for high school pupils.

A career-guidance programme aimed at struggling high school pupils is being piloted in Hout Bay.

ABC for Life, an NGO, is rolling out the programme at Hout Bay High School, having recognised that some pupils who are performing poorly academically need to be introduced to alternative job opportunities.

ABC for Life trustee and co-founder Val Toledo said the current education system was not looking after those pupils who were struggling.

“Essentially what is happening is that when children fail, they are left with no future. They will drop out of school and then battle to find a job since they have no qualifications whatsoever. Our main vision is to catch those children who are failing and inform them that there are other career opportunities out there,” Ms Toledo said.

South Africa’s youth unemployment rates are now considered to be chronic, and for millions of school-leavers, the future looks bleak. It is estimated that more than 48% of South Africans between the ages of 15 and 34 were unemployed in the third quarter of 2016.

It’s these figures that have caused ABC for Life to intervene.

“When pupils get to Grade 9, they are compelled to make subject choices. What we aim to do is align these subjects with what they would like to do one day, and in some cases, we tell them that they do not need to complete school in order to get a job in that field,” Ms Toledo said.

“We help them to define their strengths, and after this assessment, in cases where it is required, we will help them to leave school in Grade 10 so they can start working towards getting a job in their preferred field.”

These pupils learn how to draw up a CV and apply for bursaries at schools that can equip them for jobs in their chosen field. Girls lean towards beauty therapy and secretarial work, while the boys can pursue careers as plumbers and panel-beaters.

“We are taking a realistic approach to create a future for kids where they have the capacity to perform in these jobs. They are always surprised to learn that they don’t need a matric to work in these professions.”

The programme has been running for nine months at Hout Bay High, and while there have been challenges in terms of getting buy-in from the pupils, there have also been some success stories.

Imizamo Yethu resident Asanda Noyo had been directionless in how to make a living without a matric, but ABC for Life counsellors discovered that she was interested in beauty therapy. Since a full beauty therapy course was too difficult and expensive, it was recommended she do the course in stages.

She completed a manicure and pedicure course through the Cape Nail and Beauty Academy and is now able to earn money while developing her skills alongside friends who also want to pursue this career, or join a salon and build from there.

ABC for Life has created a guidance book for pupils like Asanda, and Ms Toledo hopes that the programme will one day be built into the life skills curriculum at schools across the country.

“The project is being piloted in Hout Bay, and, as such, we are appealing to Hout Bay business community to assist us with mentorship programmes.

“We would not require a business to host a learner more than once or twice a week, and they require no payment. All they would require is a meal and the transport costs to and from work,” Ms Toledo said.

Those businesses willing to offer mentorships can contact ABC for Life co-ordinator, Nyara Purazi, on 021 791 0869/0847373024 or email