By Sello Tang

  • Gift Nomthandazo Maluleka, a beneficiary of the Department of Social Development and MTN Foundation’s computer skills training programme, graduated at 33 with newfound employment prospects, breaking dependence on child support grants.
  • Mfundo Shongwe, another programme beneficiary, expressed pride in achieving a basic computer training certificate, highlighting the transformative impact on his career.
  • Eyethu National Computer College, in partnership with MTN Foundation, plays a pivotal role in providing intensive courses and expanding digital skills to address youth unemployment, bridging the digital gap in South Africa.

Gift Nomthandazo Maluleka, aged 33, from a village called Mawewe, was a beneficiary of the computer skills training programme facilitated by the Department of Social Development and the MTN Foundation. She graduated last Friday. Gift, a mother of two girls aged 11 and 16, is breaking the cycle of poverty as she had never been employed before. Upon completing the computer course, Gift secured a 3-week job as an office administrator with a local organisation focusing on agricultural programmes. “We relied on these social grants for our daily living expenses and my children’s education,’ she remarked.”

With the qualification, Gift was optimistic that she would be able to secure employment to provide for her family. “Completing Eyethu National Computer College with a computer certificate was a blessing, and I would like to thank the Deputy Minister of Social Development, Dr Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, and MTN Foundation for affording me this opportunity,” she said. She remained hopeful that her current employer would offer her full-time employment.

Another beneficiary of the programme, 28-year-old Mfundo Shongwe, also praised the programme and the opportunities that lay ahead of him. “I am very proud of myself for achieving this certificate in basic computer training. It is going to completely change my life and boost my prospects for better work opportunities,” said Shongwe. He was currently working for an NPO on a 3-month contract after being recommended by the deputy minister. The contract started in January this year and would end in March. Shongwe was responsible for facilitating HIV and Aids programmes such as early intervention prevention methods in HIV and Aids and family preservation.

Mr Lawrence Khekhe, Director of Eyethu National Computer College, expressed equal pride in the success of the programme and his students. He noted that the course was intense, with numerous assignments, but praised the students for their dedication and determination at every step. Eyethu National Computer College was appointed by the MTN Foundation nine years ago to administer computer training as a public-private partnership between social development and the MTN Foundation. Training courses were conducted at State-of-the-Art Multimedia Computer Centres built by the MTN Foundation across various provinces. The college operated eight satellite branches countrywide and had already produced students in the Northwest, Gauteng, Eastern Cape, and Mpumalanga Provinces. Currently, the training modules focus on basic and user computer programmes, and Mr Khekhe mentioned plans to incorporate coding and robotics, supported by Huawei international company. He stated, “We have already trained 50 students through our programme, and this year we aim to offer training, including artificial intelligence, to more than 30 unemployed youth across the country.” The goal was to connect successful graduates to volunteer mentoring work at the Department of Basic Education on coding and robotic subjects.

Mr Arthur Mukhuvha, the General Manager of MTN Foundation, indicated that this digital project had assisted unemployed youth in acquiring skills to enter the digital economic market. Mukhuvha mentioned that they had already approached other major companies in the IT and digital economy sectors to absorb the graduates upon completion. “We were in the process of finalising partnerships with significant industry players to provide further on-job training for these youth,” he explained. However, their goal was to encourage students to become entrepreneurs and establish their own digital companies in the future, thereby solidifying the programme’s value. “The reality was that we did face a shortage of skills in the digital space in the country. We aimed to equip young people to enter that space, hence the establishment of the MTN Foundation Skills Academy,” he stated. Through the Academy and its partners, they aimed to train approximately 900 unemployed youth this year in E-commerce and the digital economy.

The PPP between Social Development and MTN has since seen many 20-seater multimedia centres built across South Africa. The centres were equipped with desktops, free MTN Wi-Fi connectivity for 24 months, an interactive whiteboard, a laser printer and other necessary hardware and software. To date, MTN SA has handed over 500 multimedia centres in schools and communities across the country, connecting thousands of learners and many communities with the technology and skills needed to thrive in the modern, connected world. “We were true to ourselves when we said we wanted to build an inclusive society that would ensure youth and communities in remote rural areas also benefitted from technology, particularly in the digital skills development,” concluded Deputy Minister Bogopane-Zulu.

Picture by Evans Molimi

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