The voices of schoolchildren are soon to hit the airwaves in Khayelitsha, giving the pupils an opportunity to learn, listen, discuss and, perhaps most importantly, hope.
KisimaRadio, a community radio station, will launch youth stations at three schools come 21 March, which will see learners become content producers, radio presenters, music compilers and content managers.
Learners will be able to tune into their school’s unique online radio through an app and participate in programmes.
This will allow “youth to engage on youth issues”, according to Nosipho Mahlanyana, co-founder of KisimaRadio.
The radio forms part of KisimaRadio’s overarching school project called Weneo — We Need Each Other.
Although there will be a fun and entertaining aspect of the content, it will also unpack, address and suggest solutions on problems children in Khayelitsha face, such as dropping out of school, teenage pregnancies, violence and abuse.
Sprawling informal settlements cover large parts of Khayelitsha, which is situated on the Cape Flats. Its residents include hundreds of children whose dreams end where poverty, alcoholism, substance abuse, gangsterism and dysfunctional households start.
“You don’t need to spend a month in the township to feel sad,” Mahlanyana said as she discussed the difficulties faced by the residents of Khayelitsha, where she was raised.
Youngsters are not spared from the daily difficulties adults deal with.
“They seem like they just go to school because they’re expected to go to school,” she said.
“And when they’re at school, there’s no vision.”
It was while preparing the Weneo project and interacting with young people that she was made acutely aware of the problems they face — lack of effective career guidance, anxiety during exams and dropping out of school as a result of falling pregnant and joining gangs.
“It’s that ripple effect, and it’s an ongoing culture that is painful to watch.
“Some of these youngsters come from dysfunctional homes where there is no opportunity to sit down with parents and express [themselves] and what is troubling them, their desires, their future ambitions,” Mahlanyana said.
“They actually have so many questions but no one to sit down with and just talk about life.
“That is why we felt a responsibility to intervene and join hands with high schools to see if we could holistically impact the lives of these young people.”
Being female in Khayelitsha was viewed as an impediment, she said, given cultural beliefs that painted women as inferior.
Irrespective of their age, boys address women in a demeaning manner, she added.
“By virtue of being a female, you are seen as less capable than a man. This is apart from being undermined in terms of your intellectual capacity.
“We get undermined even in terms of our ability to perform, be it in class, be it in business … we are regarded as second best to men in terms of what we can deliver.”
Female students were additionally burdened because they had to care for siblings when their mothers were working, which resulted in them skipping school.
Social media and its seemingly carefree “influencers” also highlighted social divides.
In addition to this, absent fathers leave a void in a girls’ life “because now this girl is moulded one-sided by a female [while] the father is not there to influence the mind of this girl child in sharing his wisdom, give guidance and be a mentor,” said Mahlanyana.
The Weneo project and radio platform has received positive responses from schools across the country, particularly in the Eastern Cape, Gauteng and the Western Cape. The stations will be launched in the Western Cape before expanding to other provinces.