The Kliptown Youth Programme in Soweto 'has achieved a 100% pass rate for matric for the past three years'
THE Soweto suburb of Kliptown is divided by the shining railway track that runs through it.
On the west of the track there is a luxury hotel and a housing project that marks the new, developed Kliptown.
To the east is the original Kliptown, founded in 1890, replete with dilapidated houses that no longer appear upright even to the naked eye.
The roads are untarred and residents there use hired chemical toilets when nature calls.
The more than 70,000 residents of this God-forsaken strip of land need only walk 10m to Walter Sisulu Square, where President Jacob Zuma recounted the proud history of Kliptown and its invaluable contribution to the struggle for democracy on Human Rights Day last month.
This is the place where the Freedom Charter, whose contents and objectives are well documented, was adopted in 1955.
Thulani Madondo (30) is the de facto prime minister of the barren strip that seems untouched by any government intervention.
Five years ago, he and a few friends founded the Kliptown Youth Programme to help the forgotten youths on the eastern side get a taste of the new South Africa.
"Our intervention is mainly in education because it is the catalyst for breaking the chains of poverty," says Madondo.
"We organise extra lessons, mainly for maths and science, for matrics but we also have tutors who can help any pupil with homework.
"When we started we didn't use qualified teachers. But we later realised that the unintended consequence of this was that some pupils who might be in the same grade but are academically ahead of others were not getting enough stimulus and so were getting bored.
"So we brought in teachers whom we pay a stipend to cover their costs and to secure their loyalty to the programme.
"Since inception, we have invested more than R1,5m into young people and we have produced graduates for whom we paid university fees.
"We also run a feeding scheme. The kids come here for breakfast and lunch. Any pupil can join the project but we give preference to the children of Kliptown."
The programme has seen more than 500 pupils through it and has grown from the handful of founders, who include 26-year-old Thando Bezana, to more than 16 people who run it today.
"And it has achieved a 100% pass rate for matric for the past three years."
Madondo and his "cabinet", through their private efforts, source funding from international donors for the project.
"The only time we have received money from a government-aligned institution was R84,000 from the National Lotteries Board," says Madondo.
"The rest comes from international donors in China and the US."
In fact, on Friday, Madondo will be travelling to China to cultivate new sources for funding and to organise an exchange programme.
"Our donors in the US have recommended us to assist a like-minded community project in Manguzi, northern KwaZulu-Natal, with corporate governance. Our project is audited, has a board of directors and is legally registered," says Bezana.
"We are currently building three classrooms to accommodate growth at a cost of R375,000."
The centre also runs soccer and netball teams and is currently participating in the Soweto Easter games.
"We're from the wrong side of the tracks, where there's total failure by government. If we don't do things for ourselves nothing will be done," says Madondo.