Newly crowned Miss South Africa 2021 Lalela Mswane made her first official visit in Gauteng since taking the title to the Malapa Motsetse Foundation Primary School NGO in Westbury.
Helping to start a conversation about unemployment and encouraging young people to start their own businesses is Mswane’s passion project and her advocacy programme during her reign.
She chose the Malapa Motsetse Foundation Primary School NGO because the school is a beacon of hope even though 64 percent of students have parents who are jobless.
The 24-year-old lawyer – from KwaSokhulu in Richards Bay, KwaZulu-Natal – said she was happy to support what she called “an initiative of hope” .
She was referring to a project begun by philanthropist Tim Nash who set up the Malapa Motsetse Foundation to help improve the STEM (Science, Technology, English and Maths) subjects for children who would otherwise have no access to them.
The Foundation supports the Westbury project that feeds and educates 350 primary school children from Monday to Friday and supports 11 primary schools in the area.
Mswane said: “Our youth need the right skills to meet the changing needs of our world of work. STEM is up there with the most important subjects needed.”
She told the children and those attending of her own journey from rural KwaSokhulu (where the unemployment levels stand at around 55 percent) to Pretoria where she attended high school before graduating as a lawyer from the University of Pretoria.
“I have made unemployment the cornerstone of all the causes I care for because it not only affects our youth but is the source of many of the social ills so prevalent in South Africa. It is now my duty as Miss South Africa to ensure that I start the conversation about unemployment amongst our youth and seek meaningful solutions which will have long-lasting effects towards its rebate.
“My campaign aims to offer support to young people to assist them to create their own employment opportunities by means of entrepreneurial skills and, in doing so, empowering them to be self-sufficient and to secure their own economic futures. I neither take the magnitude of the task lightly nor for granted because I know unemployment is a complex issue. But action towards its reduction is necessary today more than ever. Let us get ready to create and build healthy and sustainable entrepreneurial opportunities, take ownership of and shape our own futures.”
The Malapa Motsetse Foundation focuses on preserving and protecting the cultural and natural heritage of a significant part of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site. The net income earned from the Cradle Boutique Hotel and The Nature Reserve is reinvested into conservation and education which includes support of Westbury’s STEM Programme.
It began with an after-hours supplementary maths programme on computers. When it was discovered that literacy levels were low, this was included in the curriculum. During the pandemic, when schools were closed, or operated on alternate days, the STEM programme supplemented lessons.
Christine Boxall, Malapa Motsetse Foundation Primary School NGO co-ordinator, said: “Our grounds offer a green safe space for both students and community members. Petty crime and drugs are rife in the area, so we are a haven in the afternoons for our students. We get many parents thanking us for the impacts made on their children’s education. Students who were disinterested have become engaged in their schooling; marks have steadily risen but the most gratifying stories are from the students themselves who have gained confidence their own academic abilities.
“School dropout rates are increasing at a staggering rate and anything that aids a student in staying the course is priceless. The NGO also tries to add value in many ways including offering coding, robotics and, before Covid, access to a Bryanston Private High School’s Saturday academic programme on the Westbury grounds with tutors supplied by the school. Sadly we don’t have sufficient laptops to even cater to a small percentage of our students and youth and only one projector which limits our reach.
“In the morning, we have community digital facilities available for resume and career building. After school we offer digital enrichment for children so they can improve their STEM skills. We are very grateful for funding from the Malapa Motsetse Foundation. However, there is a desperate need for additional funding. We are delighted that Miss South Africa has visited the school and shone a light on what we are doing here.”
Miss South Africa is presented by Weil Entertainment in association with M-Net, Mzansi Magic, Sun International and the City of Cape Town.