By Thabang Matona
They say the strength of any tree is in its roots. This is true on both the physical and philosophical level. This very same principle applied when the founders of enke: Make Your Mark took in the very first enke: Make Your Mark class. This class has many untold stories – some of failure, some of success but all of great young leaders who have remarkable lessons to share.
One of those untold stories from the first few batches of young leaders taken in by the enke: Make Your Make program, is the story of Sthembiso Ntuli (24). This young man from a KwaZulu Natal township had been a victim of humiliation and self-oppression. His very difficult school life modelled his desire to see some change in his community.
Being part of the first class of enke, Sthembiso was one of the grade 11 learners from all over the country being connected with other young people who were dying to see some change in their communities. He had also been awarded the opportunity of being equipped with the skills to be the change he wanted to see and being inspired to sacrifice a bit of himself and his time to see that change.
He proved that none of his fellows were as hungry for change as he was. After attending the enke: Make Your Mark youth forum, Sthembiso opened up to a whole new world of major activity in his community. He began his trail of community transformation by starting his very own community action project which he named Youth in Action, Unity and Success Program. “I realizsed that some learners are not book-smart, so if they are not book-smart they have to be smart somewhere. So, my project gathered young people during break times in school, where they shared their unique and amazing talents and got to learn from each other through integrating their talents towards fulfilling their desires to gain access to certain platforms like speech, arts and drama,” says Sthembiso.
That was just the beginning of Sthembiso’s trailblazing leadership. He was then discovered by The Apple company in conjunction with Mnet and asked to be part of a programme called iSchool Africa Roadshow, where he mobilized a team called the Chesterville Youth Press which produced mini feature films that depicting the Durban life through the eyes of young people. Some of these feature films were converted to adverts for Mnet as part of the build-up strategy towards increasing the amount of tourism in Durban during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. His team was further trained for Brand Leadership and Apple donated 30 laptops to their school after they demonstrated innovations through their work.
From there, this young man was on the rise; being signed up by Gold Agency to become a leading peer educator in KwaZulu Natal’s implementation of peer education, getting involved in learner support programs by the African Leadership Academy, job shadowing engineers in JT Ross Construction as they built necessary facilities and infrastructure needed by the people of KwaZulu Natal, becoming a junior facilitator for an initiative known as Hope2Educate that aimed at providing academic and psychosocial support to learners in high schools, and getting selected to be an activator at an international leadership institute for university students.
As breath-taking as that might sound, it was nowhere near the end of Sthembiso’s journey as an active participant in massive attempts to bring about change in society. He decided to return to the enke: Make Your Mark program, now as an Igniter, who mentors and manages small groups of learners during the enke: Forum.
Most recently, he became a member of KZN’s Civil Society Group – representing and advocating for high school learners’ rights and for their social need of inclusion in developmental plans. He also became a staff member of the International Aids Society which hosts one of the biggest AIDS awareness conferences attended by delegates from all over the world, joined the TB and HIV Investigative Network (THINK) as an Adherence counsellor for local clinics based in Durban and got selected by the Youth African Leaders Initiative (YALI) to study Civil Leadership which will enable him to monitor and evaluate Non-Governmental Organisations.
He is currently the 2017-18 ambassador of the South African Voices Museum for HIV Memory and also working on yet another of his own projects called, ‘School Based Youth Support Forums’ which he promises to be “lit” as he says.
The ones that ‘know best’ say that one should, “Find one thing that they are passionate about and perfect it.,” However, Sthembiso has proven that this is not always the case. He has shown that a true leader is versatile and may contribute a hand in all spheres of life. Be it in education or health, Sthembiso does indeed blaze a trail of true leadership. Where is this trail is going next? Your guess is as good as mine!
Find out how you can support #YouthLedChange at www.enke.co.za