2013 Projects
Amazwi Wethu (Our Voices): Youth Media and Social Activism
Palika Makam, Carlos Cagin, Jordan Clark & Mayola Charles

Under apartheid, black South Africans received lower quality education than white South Africans, perpetuating an unskilled labor market and system of subservience. Although now a democratic country, South Africa still suffers from the highest level of inequality in the world. Education should be the ultimate “equalizer” in an unequal society, but today there are still essentially two education systems in South Africa. One system is well-functioning, with high-quality infrastructure, qualified and motivated teachers, and excellent results. The other system, based primarily in African and “colored” communities, is under-resourced and dysfunctional, crippled by lack of infrastructure, poor management, and severe levels of teacher absenteeism. While engagement at the policy level is crucial in a country that was built around institutionalized inequality, youth voices on the ground, from those directly affected by the injustices, must be heard in order to truly transform education policy in an equitable way. Too often young people, especially young people in underserved communities, are spoken FOR instead of WITH, and not provided with the access or tools to participate in the discourse.

We believe in a bottom-up approach to education reform, starting with those directly affected by education policies–the students.

Our solution is a youth media and social activism workshop that empowers students to share their voices, articulate their needs, understand and engage with their communities and affect policy issues that affect them. Participants become socially conscious storytellers as they build documentary filmmaking and photography skills, and use those skills to advocate for themselves and their communities.

This past summer we ran a pilot workshop with five high school students from Khayelitsha–the fastest growing township in South Africa. We partnered with the nonprofit, Equal Education, which advocates for more equal and quality education throughout the country. In collaboration with our students, we created Amazwi Wethu, which means “Our Voices” in isiXhosa. Together we produced two 15 minute documentaries surrounding their education and activism.

As we observed throughout our time at Equal Education, even with the best efforts, youth advocate organizations can have a tendency to be directed from the top-down, engaging with governments and policies more than the youth themselves. Our workshop empowers the youth of Khayelitsha to have a more active voice in the movement for more quality and equal education.

Further, we aim to provide our students with valuable and employable technical skills to compete in today’s global market.

  • http://twitter.com/KEVINtheBOLD RONALD K HIXSON

    I support your cause of equality, we should all be treated the same, for in God’s eyes we are all the same ! All deserving the same Freedom’s and fairness in life !

    • Palika Makam

      Thank you Ronald! We really appreciate your support!

  • Palika Makam

    Thank you Ronald! We really appreciate your support!

  • Anonymous

    I encourage you to connect with this great South African org., which is relevant to your work:
    http://www.enke.co.za/. One of the founders, Pip Wheaton, is a friend of New Challenge!

    • Palika Makam

      Thank you for the suggestion! They would be a great organization to partner and expand to joburg with. Do you have a contact you wouldn’t mind passing along? Palikamakam@gmail.com Thanks again.

  • Roma Singh

    I was born in South Africa and I am now an American citizen. I lived through the apartheid era and it makes me proud to see a young lady from the USA, who sees the benefit of equal education for all people, I hope you succeed in opening the eyes of governments to this basic right of every human being. There is an old saying,” Children are the message we send into the future we will not see.” I would not like to leave behind a legacy of illiteracy. Thank you.

    • Palika Makam

      Thank you for sharing your story! One thing we are constantly working on with this project is how to be mindful of the politics of representation and the insider/outsider dichotomy that emerges from work like this. It’s very encouraging to have someone so intimately familiar with the struggle to support our mission. Thanks again.

  • Nupur Arora

    Wish you success Palika! Way to go!!

    • Palika Makam

      thank you so much! really appreciate the support.

  • Guest

    Thank you to everyone for the support! Enke looks like a great organization, would love to partner with them in Joburg.

  • Suchita Shah

    I support you Palika and your team in this great work wish you good luck.
    Suchita Shah

    • Palika Makam

      Thank you so much! The support constantly reaffirms my faith in this work. It means so much to us!

  • prak

    Im so proud of you guys…helping others is what it is all about…

    • Palika Makam

      Thank you:)

  • Ayanda Xoeie

    i am a member of Amazwi Wethu and i and i have been asked to publish the project i am working on the Cape Town television CTV based on the Equal Education choir which was formed by Jonarthan who was working with one of EE’s facilitator’s Ta Thayla


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