February 21, 2013 // By: Susan Galer
When Jimmy Sekhonyane looks at the disadvantaged communities in Orange Farm, South Africa, he replaces the problems he sees in front of him with a vision of the future that promises people more than just a spark of hope. As manager of the Orange Farm Skills Centre, Sekhonyane helps bring Internet access and training to people. As an entrepreneur in training, he plans to open a learning academy providing business and IT courses to youths that desperately need better options.
“I don’t see unemployment. I see unskilled people. This is an impoverished community and skills empower people. Skills give them options to enhance their careers, start businesses, and change their lives,” says Sekhonyane.
To fully understand the incredible spirit behind Sekhonyane’s vision, it’s necessary to comprehend the extreme challenges faced by disadvantaged communities in South Africa. While the country has a 20% Internet penetration rate overall, it’s much lower in rural communities, where school dropout rates and unemployment are high, and less than 2% of households own a computer.
The Orange Farm Centre is part of a network operated by the Siyafunda CTC Centres that provides affordable Internet and e-mail access and technology training to these communities. With funding and hands-on support from founding partner SAP, Siyafunda CTC has opened 50 community knowledge centers, reaching thousands of people — youths, the unemployed, women, people with disabilities — in search of a better future. For many, the centers offer them the first access they’ve ever had to a computer and the Internet.
Ahmed Ismael, founding Director at Siyafunda CTC, emphasizes the difference this training can make. “If not for these programs, these youths would be hungry and hanging around on street corners, or turning to a life of crime,” he says. “We’re helping create a community where they learn they can do things for themselves, and not just depend on hand-outs, to make a better life.”