Inspirations from SA Youth Month 2013

Richard Dobson & Tasmi Quazi

The iconic photograph of 12 year old Hector Pieterson moments after he was shot by South African police during a peaceful student demonstration in Soweto, South Africa. Photo source:

The iconic photograph of 12 year old Hector Pieterson moments after he was shot by South African police during a peaceful student demonstration in Soweto, South Africa. Photo source: Wikipedia.

The commemoration of Youth month in South Africa is anchored around the 16 June 1976 Soweto uprising. On this ground-breaking day, a series of protests led by nearly 20, 000 high school students was catalysed, against marginalised education and the introduction of Afrikaans as the medium of instruction in local schools by the then apartheid government. Sadly, many young lives were lost, but not forgotten. As Youth month draws to an end, Asiye eTafuleni (AeT) has had the privilege of reflecting on the significance of this month through the extraordinary contributions of youth in its work.

Unlike the common prejudices of the general apathy amongst the youth, AeT in fact has seen a shift from the youth protest years against marginalised education to the current context in which youth are increasingly engaging key social challenges. These youth responses have been diverse and in some cases, grown beyond the initial sacrifices. Rather inspirationally, these young people have chosen to dig deeper and respond personally.

A particularly poignant account is that of social work students from the Bright Site Project who have partnered with AeT in providing social support services to informal recyclers of the Imagine Durban Informal Recycling Project. This has been integrated as part of the students’ in-service learning for their academic curricula.

Bright Site Social Work Students Ntombizandile Krakra and Andile Ndlovu who came up with the idea of sorting Maria's carboard. Photo by Ntombifuthi Mnisi.

Bright Site Social Work students Ntombizandile Krakra & Andile Ndlovu who came up with the idea of sorting Maria’s cardboard recyclables while was grieving. Photo: Ntombifuthi Mnisi.

A Recycler Leader from the Project, Maria Vilakazi, tragically lost her last remaining child of six to illness, consequently with three grandchildren to support as the sole bread winner.  While Maria was tending to the funeral arrangements, the social work students went beyond their academic obligations, by rolling up their sleeves and sorting Maria’s cardboard recyclables for her. This was so that the formal businesses did not feel the pinch of her absence with the mounting cardboard waste. More importantly, it ensured that her income flow remained relatively stable for these few days. Their volunteerism motivated other informal recyclers in the group, AeT staff members, members of the public and City officials to also provide support to Maria in this way.

Volunteers sorting Maria's cardboard including City Officials (Niall Haygarth & Thomas Ferreira) and AeT's Chantal Froneman. Photo by Tasmi Quazi.

Volunteers sorting Maria’s cardboard recyclables including City Officials (Niall Haygarth & Thomas Ferreira) & AeT’s Chantal Froneman. Photo: Tasmi Quazi.

Volunteers from the public sorting Maria's carboard including Maseeha Ansar Meah and Tahmid Quazi. Photo by Tasmi Quazi.

Youth volunteers from the public sorting Maria’s cardboard recyclables including Maseeha Ansar Meah and Tahmid Quazi. Photo: Tasmi Quazi.

Furthermore, other forms of academic contributions have included a number of successful and widely disseminated dissertations written by local and international students emphasising the development needs of the informal economy¹.  This interest has come from diverse disciplines such as; law, health, development studies, built environment, economics, leadership, communications and branding, and tourism. Moreover, it has included the visits of over 2000 university and high school learners to the Markets of Warwick Project since 2011, that have come to learn about the informal economy.

However, youth involvement in AeT has not just been from an academic perspective but also an engagement with the informal economy as an emerging area of work amongst young professionals. This has been observable through the keen interest of young people in AeT’s internship programme from the informal trading community and academic sector alike. A rewarding outcome of this has been that AeT’s Research Officer, Tasmi Quazi, was selected as one of 2013’s Top 200 Young South Africans, all recognised for their “talent, dreams and drive” within their respective careers.

This month has hence highlighted that informality has become a relevant area of service and work within a rewarding career in development – beyond just an area of study. The range of youth involvement has affirmed AeT’s role in stimulating interdisciplinary collaboration towards validation and benefit of informal work.

Bright Site Social Work Students with Recycler Leaders (From left  - Afrika Ntuli, Ntombifuthi Mnisi, Khayelihle Mthethwa, Andile Ndlovu, Ntombizandile Krakra & Maria Vilakazi). Photo by Tasmi Quazi.

Bright Site Social Work Students with Recycler Leaders (From left to right: Afrika Ntuli, Ntombifuthi Mnisi, Khayelihle Mthethwa, Andile Ndlovu, Ntombizandile Krakra & Maria Vilakazi). Photo: Tasmi Quazi.

¹ Links to dissertations and research papers below will be updated on an on-going basis:

Noah Jay. 2013. “Responding To Proposed Legislation: A Case Study of Asiye Etafuleni’s Response to the “2013 Licensing of Businesses Bill”, School for International Training, South Africa: Social and Political Transformation.

Dennis-Lee Stols. 2012. “Insurgency as an Influence of Socially Responsive Urban Development”, School of Architecture, University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Tasmi Quazi. 2011. “Municipal Approaches to Incorporating the Informal Economy into the Urban Fabric: A Case Study of Msunduzi Local Municipality and Hibiscus Coast Municipality”, School of Development Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal.


7 replies
  1. Bruna Gillham
    Bruna Gillham says:

    Dear Bright Site Students placed at Asiye eTafuleni,

    You have made us so proud you made us cry.



  2. Jeevi
    Jeevi says:

    I actually developed goose bumps when I read about the social work students altruistic gesture. Well done students your act of philantropic volunteerism !

    Your goodwill has been noted , and you all are shining role models to the rest of the Bright Site family.

    Kind regards

  3. Bruna Gillham
    Bruna Gillham says:

    Having met Maria, her daughter who recently passed away, and 2 of her grandchildren during the course of last year, I have a very clear memory of this little family unit and Maria’s resilience in particular. Death and grief come to all of us at one time or another, but as a mother my heart goes out to Maria who has now buried all her children. No matter how we put it, this goes against the laws of nature and is undoubtedly one of the most difficult life changes to deal with. The little children will be devastated but will not have to deal with the adult realities that Maria has to deal with. With Maria’s love and support they will be well taken care of, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, of this I have no doubt.

    To our social work students who have stepped up to the plate to assist Maria – your love in action is deeply admired and we are proud of you at this very emotionally draining time for Maria and all who know her.

    To Maria and the children, you are all in my thoughts and prayers.


    Mrs. Bruna Gillham

    Project Administrator

    Unisa Department of Social Work Bright Site Project Durban

    251 Mahatma Gandhi (Point) Road



  4. Barbara McLean
    Barbara McLean says:

    I feel very proud to be a part of the Bright Site team in partnership with AeT.

    Our congratulations to you Tas on being selected as one of 2013’s Top 200 Young South African’s – how exciting and what a deserving achievement. To the recognition of “talent, dreams and drive” I would add an infectious smile and heart of truth and passion for your work with the informal recyclers.

    Our sincere thanks must go to you, Richard, Patrick and all the AeT team and community of informal recyclers. You have provided a rich and conducive environment for professional and personal growth for the UNISA social work students.

    It has been encouraging to see the positive impact that this act of thoughtfulness has had as I have shared with all the Bright Site students the comments that have been received by UNISA staff. With the increase in student numbers to the Bright Site Project this year, the addition of a new site in Welbedagt and trying to keep ahead of the demanding 4th level academic year, we do not always have the opportunity to stop and reflect on the real moments of learning that unfold around us.

    Thank you again to the four Bright Site students for the ripple effects of your kindness in action but today I would thank Maria because it is through her story of grief, unbelievable suffering and courage that we have been enriched. The Bright Site staff and students extend our deepest sympathy but also our gratitude to Maria. You have taught us what it is to put one foot ahead of the other even when life is not pretty.


    Barbara McLean

    Operational Manager

    Bright Site Project Durban

  5. Ann Petty
    Ann Petty says:

    To the Bright Site Social Work Students: Ntombifuthi, Ntombizandile, Andile and Khayelihle

    You have no idea how proud you have made me. May the spirit of philanthropic volunteerism continue to uplift you and keep you focused on being the difference we wish to see in this world.

    Remember at the start of the year I quoted Sai Baba who said, “Life is a sacrifice …offer it” Well you have.

    I appreciate this lovely act of kindness. It has not only blessed Maria, but all of us who want to see you emerge as the best social workers you can be.


    Ann Petty

    Regional Social Work Department Coordinator


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