24 July 2023

Hairdryers are doing overtime, hammers are banging away, and heads are smoking: the church building in Parkwood in South Africa has been converted into a skills development centre for disadvantaged young people. And they learn far more than technical skills there.

“The teacher gives class in a very exciting way,” says Fowiza Taliep. “You feel excited to come to class every week because the teacher explains everything so well and you can ask him the same thing over and over again, and he will have patience with you.” The young woman from Parkwood near Cape Town is taking a computer course in the converted New Apostolic church.

From worship space to training centre

The Masakhe Foundation of the District Apostle Area Southern African had plans for a Skills Training Centre already in 2021. Unemployment is especially high in the area around Cape Town, and so is the resulting poverty. The Church provided the church building in Parkwood. And financial support came from the German relief organisation NAK-karitativ.

Work began in October 2022. The pews were dismantled and stored in the Tafelsig church. The church hall was converted to create classrooms. On 6 February 2023, District Apostle John Leslie Kriel, Chairman of the Masakhe Foundation, formally opened the Masakhe Skills Training Centre.

There are two options when one is unemployed, he said in his address: “Either you wait to be offered a job or you do something to escape the situation.” With the newly created training centre and the Skills Unlimited Programme an opportunity has been created for young adults.

Confronting poverty

Fowiza did not complete her studies after school. “Today I totally regret that,” she says. When selecting individuals, regardless of denomination or religious affiliation, care is taken to ensure that no one is excluded from the programme due to lack of schooling. The programme is aimed at those young people who have fewer opportunities on the labour market.

This opened up new opportunities for Charmainne Kodia, for example: “I registered for a hairdressing course at Masakhe to improve my skills because I have been unemployed for more than six months,” she says. She saw a Masakhe poster outside a New Apostolic church offering courses and registered on 30 January.

She has no regrets. Thanks to the certificate she can cut, flat-iron, and blow-dry hair and can now do clients at home. “That was very helpful for me and my family,” says Charmainne, a mother and grandmother, who now once again has an income.

Taking the initiative into the world of work

“With the certificate, the course participants can start their own micro-enterprise or look for a job,” Bishop Gregory February explains, the executive director of the Masakhe Foundation. Thanks to the Skills Unlimited Programme, 120 young people have already learned a practical skill. Many of them earn their living with the qualifications they have acquired.

Some of the teachers at the training centre are former students themselves who participated in earlier courses. They are aware of the challenges in the townships and can provide the best possible support. They know only too well that in the world of work you need more than just technical skills.

Sulaimaan Simons, who just finished the computer course, reports: “I have learnt a lot that I did not expect.” He says, “I did not just learn about computers but also life skills, how to sit in an interview, and how to develop more communication skills.”

Looking ahead

“I can only advise unemployed people to come and make use of the training. The training is free. The only thing that is required of you is to come and be here every day,” Charmainne says.

The next courses in basic hairdressing, woodworking, tiling, plumbing, and basic computer skills start on 4 September. The courses last six to nine weeks. And soon there will be more: “Hopefully in painting, home decoration, and trades,” the managing director Gregory February says.