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The partnership between Trans4m – Education and transformation - and Da Vinci Institute in South Africa aims at developing a form of education that relates more to the communities’ burning issues. Five South African working students from the Da Vinci Institute are currently in Caux as part of a 10-day journey in Europe in order to gather experiences and knowledge before going back home with concrete project ideas to implement. They all work in three different areas – their company, their community and Da Vinci Institute where they all follow the same Masters in Business Management. ‘Hardly any social innovation comes out of university’ says Alexander Schieffer, co-founder of Trans4m, who then explains that a new form of education is needed. ‘We need to go from individually based education to society based education.’
Good afternoon Charlton, you are a working student from Da Vinci Institute in South Africa, can you tell me more about your work and the link between your work and your Bachelors degree?
I am employed in a construction company and we are involved with technical skills development from basic adult education to the supervisory level. I am doing a management degree with Da Vinci but more applied to the workplace, with practical applications of the theories that we have been learning. We have a workplace challenge that will be carried out over three years. We identified an issue in this area that we would like to address and we will work on it over the three years. Something that I am passionate about is skills development within education for previously disadvantaged individuals. Many of our people are unemployed. Literacy and numeracy levels are very low because education was not accessible for all races.
Do you think your experience in Caux will help you in your workplace challenge?
Caux was a definite eye-opener for me. I met so many like-minded individuals. I feel that I am not alone in my struggle to uplift my community and others around me. I would like to volunteer for Initiatives of Change in my country. Knowing that so many people are here and like-minded just inspires me in a big way.
What kind of projects do you implement in your company for skills development?
We currently have joint projects with Further Education and Training (FET) colleges which are government-funded institutions. We access funds for previously disadvantaged individuals so before they attain the actual training we plan out a whole career path for the individual. In the past, a lot of individuals just got on the program in order to receive government incentives. But now we are looking at the whole career path. We can take a person from being illiterate to obtaining a formal qualification.
What made you work in skills development?
I am in the civil engineering trade and I noticed different needs. I represent a mix of ethnic groups. My mother’s side was black and my dad was white. During Apartheid time, my dad was exiled to Namibia so I had to conform to the cultures that were around me and I picked up those languages. In the post-Apartheid period, with globalization and immigration, a lot of skilled workers were leaving the country. White individuals were leaving; they were not sure about what the economic system was going to be or if the country would be stable. I then noticed a very sharp decline in terms of skills and quality of the skills that were actually being produced. That is what it all stems from.
So you decided to stay in your country.
My roots are deep. I cannot speak my local language but my heart is there. When I see now around me the people I knew before we left; when I see where they are in society and where they should be, I think that it is my way of giving back. Ensuring that they have a proper system. It is not just a matter of training, getting out there and moving on, it is also ensuring that they have proper support structures because I believe that in life you always need a strong mentor. I have personally been very fortunate; I have got a very strong mentor. There is a wealth of information that you won’t get in books, that you probably need to learn through experience and a mentor can help you with that.
Who is your mentor?
I have an uncle, actually I call him uncle out of respect, he is a family friend. He is a previously disadvantaged black uncle. He was a former minister in South Africa and he helped drafting the constitution. He played a big part in the negotiations between the South African government and the Apartheid government. So I have been blessed in that way. His name is Dr. Penuell Maduna and it is partially because of him that I am here and that I follow this specific programme. He inspires me in my life. I tell him how things are going, to keep him going and to keep myself going at the same time. I also do it to express my gratitude for the role he plays in my life. I also have a great dad. He has always been understanding, he has sacrificed a lot for us to be here and because of him, I have been able to travel and to be exposed to different cultures. I am hoping to bring that to my community.
Where does this sense of community come from?
I’ll give you an example, if I have chocolate, I won’t eat it alone because I’ll enjoy it more if I share it. If you have chocolate, I know that I am going to get some of yours. That’s how we have always operated as Africans. Even in my group, we are very diverse. We are all black South Africans but we come from different ethnic groups. There are eleven ethnic groups in my country, so it is really diverse. Ultimately we have got a thing called Ubuntu - one nation. Whether you are white, black, coloured, you must be secure and know that you are South African.
Who we are: Initiatives of Change (IofC) is a world-wide movement of people of diverse cultures and backgrounds, who are committed to the transformation of society through changes in human motives and behaviour, starting with their own.
Purpose: We work to inspire, equip and connect people to address world needs, starting with themselves, in the areas of trustbuilding, ethical leadership and sustainable living.
Omnia Marzouk, President, IofC International
'Nothing lasting can be built without a desire by people to live differently and exemplify the changes they want to see in society.'