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GWF’s graduation ceremonies: ‘symbolising possibilities for a better future’

For many youths in South Africa’s rural communities, resources such as computers and internet connectivity remain a remote luxury. For them, these tools, as well as the skills to use them, are often unfamiliar and out of reach compared to their urban counterparts.

However, Good Work Foundation (GWF) is changing this, one line of code and one spreadsheet at a time.

All GWF digital learning campuses – five in Mpumalanga and one in the Free State – offer the Open Learning Academy (OLA) where rural schoolchildren explore a world of wonder-filled digital learning, while the other core GWF programme, Bridging Year Academy (BYA), bridges the gap between matric and the world of work, entrepreneurship or further study.

Furthermore, our Hazyview Digital Learning Campus is home to four Career Academies offering young rural adults the opportunity to specialise in fields such as hospitality, information technology, facilitation skills and conservation.

These are more than just educational initiatives; they’re life-changing journeys for young people, their families and their entire communities.

The culmination of the one-year BYA or Career Academy programmes is a series of graduation ceremonies held across our campuses, bringing hope to surrounding communities often grappling with the despair of high unemployment. Parents and community members beam with joy and optimism as they witness their children taking steps towards meaningful employment, a result of the hard work and dedication they have shown throughout the year. 

These graduation ceremonies are not just academic formalities; they symbolise hope, achievement and communal pride. This is what some of our 2023 graduates had to say …

“To see the people I love, friends and family cheering me on as my name was called to fetch my certificate was priceless, and the choir was amazing. It makes you feel special and appreciated. But my problem with the programme is that it is way too short; it ended while we were still enjoying it and improving our knowledge of things.” – Shaun Mabuza

“The programme has not only given me new skills, but has introduced me to other interesting people. For us, graduating from here symbolises possibilities for a better future and new hopes for us and our families. Finishing what I started has been my biggest reward.” – Nokubonga Ngomane

“This graduation means a lot to me and my family. My siblings were so happy – they came to support me, cheering for me like they were seeing a famous model coming down the runway. I got excited when I received my certificate and medal. That moment was my reward for working hard and giving my all from the moment I started with the programme to finally completing it. I am also thankful to our facilitators, who were always patient and supportive whenever we were struggling with something.” – Elvis Letsale

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‘Sense of fulfilment’

GWF managers and senior staff members also look forward to the graduation ceremonies and seeing their students succeed …

“Most of the young people from these rural areas tend to lose hope from not having money for tertiary education and lack information on how to further their studies. But once they join the GWF programme, you can see the difference: they start to have confidence that they can make the impossible possible, shedding tears of joy and showing signs of great relief on their day of graduation.” – Open Learning Academy manager Anorld Mdhluli

“You can see the sense of fulfilment on the graduates’ faces when they achieve what they set out to do. They become so proud of themselves when they witness being celebrated by the community and family members.” – Hospitality Academy manager Tshepiso Thelingoane-Moshesh

“At these graduation ceremonies, we gather to celebrate with friends and families of the graduates. It is always heart-warming to witness how the young people participating in these programmes go from being shy when they first arrive, to having even more confidence by the time they leave here. They depart having acquired new skills and having unlocked that potential to express themselves with clarity and conviction.” – Ntsako Mandlazi, Bridging Year Academy manager

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