South African youth were honoured for their determination and efforts in improving the lives of those less fortunate at the President’s Award for Youth Empowerment ceremony at the Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guest House in Pretoria last week.
The award aims to motivate young people to become involved in a balanced programme of voluntary self-development activities and was first introduced in the United Kingdom in 1956 as The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.
Today, through the network of The International Award Association, it is operated in more than 120 countries – with 21 in Africa.
In South Africa, the programme started out as the Gold Shield Award in 1983 and was re-launched as The President’s Award for Youth Empowerment in 1994.
It has four sections designed to provide a balanced programme of personal development – service, skills, physical recreation and adventurous journey.
In August 2010, at the beginning of the United National’s International Year of Youth, President Jacob Zuma accepted the role of Patron-in-Chief from President Nelson Mandela, who is the Founding Patron-in-Chief of the organisation.
Last year, during the Presidential Budget Vote Speech in Parliament, President Zuma called for companies and funding entities to support the valuable work that the Award was doing for young people in South Africa.
NURTURING SOUTH AFRICA’S YOUTH
In congratulating the 60 Gold Award recipients from Gauteng, Limpopo and Kwazulu- Natal, Deputy Minister in the Presidency, Obed Bapela said: “I challenge you to keep living the award in all you do. Continue working with the less privileged in the way that you have.
“Continue learning new skills and challenging yourselves in various ways as you move into the future. Our country needs young people like you to make it happen.”
Bapela also announced that the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) is currently in the process of signing its first Service Level Agreement with the organisers of the President’s award programme, to further support the organisation’s work.
“Through this partnership, we hope to create greater access to the award programme, enabling more young people to develop themselves through this exciting international initiative,” he said.
“It is not easy, but we need to work hard to develop the positive energy of young people in this country; there is a lot of it and we need to harness it.”
An example of positive energy being developed through the programme was award- winner and learner with a disability from Forest Town School in Johannesburg, Emily Mabasa.
“I’m not disabled – because disabled means you cannot do anything, I can do anything as long as I’m determined,” she said.
“If it was not for this award, I would have not discovered my passion for helping others. Through these awards, I realise that I have knowledge that I can share with others.”