Over 150 Grade 12 students from mining communities across the country are developing much needed ICT skills through their participation in Google courses, with the support of over 130 volunteer mentors sourced from Anglo American’s employee base.
The volunteer mentors have committed to spending at least one hour of their own time a month, to guide the students through the courses, supplied by Google as part of the ICT development project. The certificate courses include IT Support, UX/UI Design, Project Management and Data Analytics, which will equip the students with foundational IT skills.
The Education programme forms part of Anglo American’s Sustainable Mining Plan, which works to create skills transfer and economic prosperity in the communities in which it operates. The response to the project by Anglo American’s employees was ‘overwhelming’, said the company’s global education lead, Zaheera Soomar. Within two hours of calling for mentors, 85 employees had signed up, and there are currently 130 mentors involved in the programme. “At this time of uncertainty, where we currently facing many challenges – it’s really positive to be able to launch such an important initiative, with the support of my colleagues who understand the importance of lending a helping hand,” she said.
Oswell Muzanenhama, an IT technician in Anglo American’s Global IM division, said information technology was opening a world of opportunities for young people in fields like software development, networking and hardware.
“We’re living in a digital age, where everything revolves around technology. IT isn’t just impacting the mining industry: it’s literally changing lives and communities. I want students to know how marvellous the world of IT is. These courses can open their minds to greater possibilities in medical advancement, machine learning and any field of study you might think of,” said Muzanenhama.
Jayne Wagner, a systems enablement advisor in Anglo American’s supply chain division, said her passion for education saw her volunteer ‘almost instantly’:
“One of the best investments we can make in our country is to give our kids an education. I did most of my post-school studies by correspondence, while working and raising a family. I know how difficult it can be, and I know the benefits those extra qualifications bring. These learners are our future, and we need to equip them to face the challenges they will encounter,” she said.
Anel Hugo, a project control manager at De Beers, already runs a charity, the Lighthouse Foundation, which aims to ease the challenges facing the most vulnerable members of the community. Volunteering as a Google mentor was a natural step for her.
“I believe it is important to invest in our young people, as they are the future of our beautiful country. I believe in making a difference every single day, and the fact that we are fortunate enough to have jobs means we should ‘pay it forward’ to help those that may not have had the guidance we were fortunate to have,” said Hugo.
While amended lockdown regulations created logistical challenges for the project, most of the volunteers are already in weekly contact with their mentees and have received their device and data packages from Anglo American. A big part of their mentorship approach will be to build the students’ confidence in their ability to complete the courses, and to inspire them to make time for the courses along with their existing matric studies.
“For me to be where I am today, there were people who played a vital role in motivating me when the chips were down. Now it is my turn to motivate the next generation to go above and beyond the limits of their own imaginations, and to show them how these courses can change their lives,” said Muzanenhama. The response from the students has been ‘extremely positive’, said Hugo. “Remember, these are 18-year-old kids making their way in life. Sometimes they just need to know they are supported and fully backed. In the words of Madiba: ‘What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.’”