The President’s Award boosts the role of the youth


More than 50,000 young South Africans have enrolled in The President’s Award for Youth Empowerment over the past decade. It requires participants to make an impact in their communities.

The President's Award for Youth Empowerment
Says Nicola Stevenson, Grade 11: “The most challenging part of the President’s Award for me was to put myself out of my comfort zone. Basically I just saw the world a little differently, from a new perspective, one I was glad about and I will try to keep.” Seen here are award winners, The President’s Award for Youth Empowerment organisers, and former Miss South Africa, Ntandoyenkosi Kunene at an awards ceremony in Mpumalanga in March 2017. (Image supplied)

Melissa Javan
Over the past decade, more than 19,000 young South Africans have completed all the levels required in The President’s Award for Youth Empowerment (TPA) programme. They received gold, silver or bronze certificates for completing it.

A total of 1,555 young people have received their gold certificate.

The certificate, which shows that a participant has completed the TPA levels, can be used as a reference in a curriculum vitae. The certificate can also be used to apply for bursaries.

An awards ceremony was held earlier this month at Penryn College in Nelspruit. At the event, 61 people from eight award units in Mpumalanga received bronze and silver awards. Of these, 49 were bronze and 12 were silver. Both these levels took a minimum of six months to complete.

An international accolade

The TPA programme is affiliated to The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award for Young People. Both programmes are open to all people between the ages of 14 and 24.

The TPA is a full member of the International Award Foundation. It oversees the award programme in more than 140 countries, of which 25 are in Africa. There are more than one million active participants internationally.

the president's award for youth empowerment hike
At each level of The President’s Award for Youth Empowerment, participants have to undertake an adventurous journey. Pictured is a group on their way to a hiking expedition. (Image supplied)

The programme

In the past 10 years, 56,000 people have enrolled in the programme.

It was established as The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award for Young People in 1956 in the United Kingdom by Prince Phillip. It was introduced in South Africa in 1983 as the Gold Shield Award, and was re-launched as The President’s Award in 1994, with Nelson Mandela as its founding patron in chief.

The TPA offers 14- to 24-year-olds an opportunity to develop character, discover their purpose and determine their future in building a better South Africa, says Nkagare Makhudu, head of the programme.

“It is a balanced, non-competitive challenge for young people implemented in schools, institutions of higher learning, community youth facilities, residential child care centres including homes and secure care centres, as well as correctional centres.”

It provides a framework for non-formal education and experiential learning opportunities to help youth discover talents that do not necessarily show up in a classroom, he says.

The TPA also encourages:

  • Personal discovery and growth;
  • Self-reliance;
  • Discipline;
  • Responsibility;
  • Service to the community.

“We have more than 600 adult volunteer leaders, known as award leaders, who serve as coaches or mentors to participants in various award units.”

The Mpumalanga awards

The awards programme is run throughout the country. At the Mpumalanga ceremony the awardees were from a number of schools:

Bronze awardees:

  • Penryn College – 1
  • Sitintile Secondary – 19
  • Sabane Secondary – 10
  • Mthombo Secondary – 7
  • Lowveld High – 2
  • – 5
  • Fundinjobo – 5

Silver awardees:

  • Penryn College – 1
  • – 9
  • Uplands College – 2

Each of them received a badge and a certificate signed by President Jacob Zuma, who is the present patron in chief, and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.

The certificates were handed out by Chris Erasmus, the Penryn College headmaster; Miss South Africa, Ntandoyenkosi (Nthando) Kunene; the TPA’s Makhudu; and Dineo Matsheka, the TPA programme manager for Mpumalanga.

Programme criteria

Participants must complete four sections at each level to achieve their bronze, silver or gold awards. The four sections are community service, skills development, physical recreation and adventurous journey within a group. At gold level, participants complete a residential project as well.

Community service, for example, would be to visit people in need and deliver a domestic task.

Participants can only be awarded once they fulfil all the requirements for that particular level; they must submit a signed portfolio of evidence.

Donors or sponsors are needed for sustainability, says Makhudu. “Partnerships are crucial for creating shared value.

“To administer implementation of the award programme is costly as it requires programme managers to travel from one region to another or conduct site or unit visits, to organise training of award leaders, and to take participants on adventurous journeys.”

Other costs include printing and issuing of certificates and badges.

Participants pay to be on the programme. “However, we have participants from under-resourced organisations or schools who normally don’t pay or pay a very little amount they can afford.

“It costs The President’s Award between R1,000 and R1,500 to administer the involvement of each participant.”

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