The assets of youth

Columba students feel confident, inspired and future-oriented

Columba students feel confident, inspired and future-oriented

By equipping youths with leadership skills and empowering them to believe in their purpose, Columba Leadership creates positive social change for beneficiaries and the indigent communities in which they live.

During a six-day bush retreat a selected mix of grade 9 and 10 pupils are taught leadership skills, such as self-awareness, focus, creativity, perseverance and service.

They are then encouraged to use these newly acquired skills to empower their peers and their communities. An example can be found at Manyangana High School in Mpumalanga, where through a student-led tutorial initiative the matric pass rate increased from 30% in 2011 to 100% in 2012.

“We refer to the training as activating youth,” said Columba founder Rob Taylor.  “We see youth as an asset for social transformation.”

Columba’s two-year mentoring and involvement with a school begins with community engagement. With the help of local nongovernmental organisations it identifies and begins pitching to principals in an area. If they are interested, the principals must write a motivation for inclusion.

The strength of the programme relies on the multiplier effect: training a small group of 12 pupils and three educators has a measurable impact on more than 220 beneficiaries.

“We can only choose 12 pupils per academy. We tell those who don’t make it that just because they aren’t chosen doesn’t mean they’re not leaders,” said Taylor.

It’s not only high achievers who are chosen, but a diverse mix of youngsters. “Every person possesses inner greatness to transform their own life and the lives of those around them,” said Taylor. “If you fall out of a system you get discarded, but it’s remarkable how often we find the really startling successes come from the most troubled youths.”

Since its inception in 2009 Columba has produced 1 500 graduates, including 57 principals and 243 educators from 64 schools in seven provinces. Of those 95% report feeling more confident, inspired and future-oriented, and 75% have moved on to further education within two years of matriculating.

“Young people generally imagine success as what they see in the media,” said Taylor. “We teach them that it’s something authentic, that it’s about service. That’s something they can access.”