Over the past years, the Africa Unite School club program has noticed a need to not only capacitate our learners in leadership but also act as a support system for the young leaders. Therefore, from November 2019 to early 2020 the School Club team has been working tirelessly curating a psychosocial program pioneering social emotional learning for our club members.
AUSC’s new Social Emotional Learning Forum (SELF) officially launched in March 2020, just a few days before our annual leadership camp. Nonetheless, a new virus called COVID-19 was powerful enough to bring the whole world to a standstill – at least on the outside. Deep within however, people were battling with feelings of overwhelm, anxiety and frustration, caused by dark clouds of fear & uncertainty over their heads.
Learners in disadvantaged communities were particularly affected and reached out to Africa Unite for more support. How would you feel if you got told to focus on your academics – while your stomach is empty, your head is buzzing, your phone is out of data, family members are yelling, and the number of GBV cases in your community are on the rise? No easy situation to find yourself in, but for some this is “lockdown” reality…
Hence, the School Club team in the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng worked together to remotely initiate the SELF program.
The program started out as a simple WhatsApp group with the Africa Unite School Club learners and in a week, other learners from our partner school in different parts of the country joined the program because they too wanted to learn more about how to deal with the stressors of lockdown and Covid-19.
On the 30th of April, the team introduced weekly SEL sessions on the virtual platform Zoom. During these sessions, the facilitators share basic coping tools, self-reflection exercises and the importance of developing a growth mindset from “I can’t” to “I can”. The participants get to set their own goals, therefore taking charge of their journey towards greater success, greater confidence, and greater kindness. Attendance is free of charge because data costs get covered by the team.
Here is what some learners had to share about their experiences with the SELF group:
Tshepang, 17 years, Hillbrow: Well, I have been having wonderful Zoom sessions with AUSC which actually changed my life and I am so amazed because not only do they change your self esteem but they build you with so much love, wisdom and I want to thank them for actually targeting the young people as we have wisdom and powerful ideas as well. Thank you!
Bradley, 17 years, Delft: The insights I have gained is that I realised I’m not alone in the situations I face and that there is a network of people who face the same troubles as me and with their experiences I learnt how to deal with the curves life throws us…I’ve learnt the reason why people act the way they do and that each and every person has a struggle whether it’s internal or external and for that we also have to be kind. The into questions about my week normally make me feel warmth because I get the opportunity to listen to others and to express or share my weekly adventures.
Khanyo, 16 years, Kraaifontein: The sessions have helped me a lot. They held me with my confidence and trusting myself. The sessions helped me to find myself and know who I am… I know that I can do anything in life and I can be successful too. I just have to work hard and do everything I need to do. Go to school, respect other people and be nice to them, be a positive person in life, support my friends and advise them when they are doing something wrong.
Ntsikayethu, 16 years, Kraaifontein: I love Africa Unite; the team has been a good support structure. You guys have become our big sisters and brothers that give us good advice. I have actually become more positive about what is happening around me. I try to see the positive in everything, and this has come in handy during the lockdown. Everyone in my family knows that Wednesday is Zoom time and that I don’t want to be disturbed.
Shantell, 17 years, Soweto: Africa unite is making me realize that we don’t have to judge people but we have to help them, doesn’t matter where they are from we just have to help them. Now I am growing up and understand more about helping people. As young people we have creative minds and we just have to use them 💕Africa unite is a blessing to me and my school 💎
Nthandokazi, 16 years, Kraaifontein: This group has not been just a group to me but a platform that made me fall in love with myself more. It made me realise that I’m more important than I ever thought I was. And that my emotions matter. Even if my week is not going well I know Wednesday things will change. I also learnt to motivate myself.
It has been an absolute pleasure to see our young leaders grow in confidence. Seeing the brilliant minds and beautiful hearts that are shining bright when they get the opportunity to express themselves has been absolutely contagious.
Up to this point, the SELF project has no official funding which means we had to limit the number of participants to 15 learners per session. If you want to help us reach more kids, here is a link to our fundraiser: https://gf.me/u/yt2xaa