Mokgadi Matlakala is an Activator on a mission. In the town of Botlokwa, north of Polokwane, Limpopo, she has been has been working tirelessly on various projects to uplift her community and encourage youth to dream big and follow their dreams.
While embarking on two new projects this year, Matlakala has been working with the young people of Botlokwa for a number of years and says that they are a group who refuse to just comment on the challenges of the youth, but take action to bring change or at least drive it.
One of the projects launched this year involves former students of Matlakala’s former high school, Sefoloko Secondary School, mentoring next year’s matriculants toward a 100% matric pass rate in 2015.
“Team Mauwane is a purpose driven programme championed by youth people who are passionate about youth development,” says Matlakala. “Sefoloko Secondary School has always had a reputation for producing the best results, so much so that kids from different areas would travel to attend this school. But the last time students achieved a 100% matric pass was in 2002. The principal will be retiring soon and we would like to fulfil his dream of it happening again before his retirement.”
The group launched their programme at Sefoloko Secondary on Friday, 24 October, just before the exams started partly to motivate the current matrics to do their best and to introduce the programme to the Grade 12s of next year.
“We wanted to sow the seed of a 2015 100% matric pass early so that the new matriculants can return motivated to achieve this,” she says.
Matlakala adds that another area of focus for the programme is parental involvement.
“Many parents are not involved in their children’s schooling and don’t care about homework. All they want to know is whether the child passed or failed. If parents are more involved and follow their children’s progress, they can identify when there’s a problem and take corrective measures to assist the child.”
A second project that Matlakala is championing is restoring and fixing up dilapidated schools in the community.
“A group of us called The Botlokwa Education Activists Group have been going around to schools in need of reconstruction and, as youth, are ploughing back into our community by using our own money to fix it. Our motto is restoring the dignity of our local schools, more especially high schools,” she explains.
The first school to benefit from this project is Rasema High School situated at Ga-Ramatjowe at Botlokwa village which is in dire need of reconstruction.
“We will visit the school, identify the challenges and what’s needed and will be using our own money and effort to restore the school,” says Matlakala.
Matlakala is also the current Provincial Chairperson of the Limpopo Department of Home Affairs Youth Development Forum and aims to be selected as the National Chairperson during the next elections.
“The forum was created to represent youth in key decision making structures of the Department and to help us advance our leadership skills,” she says. “As the National Chairperson, I will be able to sit in the same meetings as the Minister and gain even more experience.”
In October, Matlakala was awarded the Young Community Developer Award by the Botlokwa Art Festival and Youth Awards in recognition of the great work she has been doing, including giving motivational talks given at the Matoks Arts and Youth Development Centre where she mentored kids and facilitating the Actioneers Drama youth group which is no longer running.
Despite all of her projects, Matlakala says that one of the biggest barriers to driving change in her community is lack of resources.
“Finding a space to run the work we do is always a huge challenge. We don’t have a community hall and, while we try to use schools, sometimes they refuse because they think we will vandalise the school.”
She adds that support from community leaders who have access to resources would make a huge difference in fulfilling her vision, which is to see each and every youth have access to information, grabbing opportunities and making their dreams a reality.