The Physically Active Youth (P.A.Y.) programme is an innovative, creative and a highly committed community−based project in Katutura, the northern township of Namibia’s capital Windhoek. The programme is unique in so far as it emphatically maintains the young person as its raison d’être: We engage the youth on their terms and in their context, in a country where 68% of the total population is youth. The programme was founded in 2003 through the initiative of Dr Donovan Dominic Zealan and Marie Jeanne Ndimbira who saw sports as an integral part of the general education process that not only supports knowledge acquisition but enables the youth to maintain a healthy lifestyle and to function effectively in a society.
During Namibia’s apartheid rule, policies and laws based on ‘racial’ distinctions served to entrench economic and political inequality. Created and administered by an exceptionally rigid machinery of the apartheid era, contemporary Katutura is a township where negative stereotyping still persists in the eyes of non−residents and residents alike. In Herero language, Katutura means “a place where we don’t want to stay”. Especially relevant to P.A.Y. are statistics pertaining to academics: the national pass rate for secondary education is 46% while in Katutura it is 37%. It is against this background that P.A.Y. has defined its mission: to use education and sports to turn Katutura from “the place where we do not want to live” into a “place where we stay”.
Rationale of P.A.Y. model
The core of our youth practice and ethics lies in the relationship we establish with the young person. In order to support the young person to reach full potential, we recognise the decisive importance of local context in which the young individuals are developing: their family situation, peer dynamics and local community’s economic capacity. P.A.Y. programme provides a safe and constructive platform for a supervised but dynamic after-school environment (see Figure 1 on p. 2) for 100 registered participants every year. Learners come every day after school to receive academic assistance (2 to 4pm) and engage in structured sports activities (4 to 5pm). Crucially, in between tutoring and sports we provide them with a snack. Furthermore, Fridays are always dedicated to a comprehensive life skills programme with strong community–outreach, health awareness, gender equality and volunteering components.
As part of our holistic life skills training, P.A.Y. takes part in a number of important initiatives: Kicking AIDS Out, Child Labour Prevention S.C.R.E.A.M., Move Windhoek: Sustainable Urban Transport Master Plan, STOP passion killing and many others. We shall focus here on two which highlight the rationale of our community–oriented youth engagement: P.A.Y. Katutura cycling school and our eLearning platform.
P.A.Y. Katutura Cycling School
P.A.Y. runs a cycling program for children and teenagers as one of key enabling strategies. Since 2006, our instructors have taught hundreds of young people to ride bicycles and out of those, we generated a pool of candidates from within the Katutura community for an Elite Cycling Team which now comprises 4 members. Some of them were previously school dropouts or engaged in petty crime. Their lives have since underwent a complete transformation as they have become (nationally) accomplished cyclists who may embark on a professional career. Significantly, they are a first team from Katutura to compete in what was, and in some circles still is, considered a “white” sport.
P.A.Y. E-Learning Platform
In 2012, P.A.Y. introduced computer-based methods in our daily teaching as the first after-school programme with an E-learning platform in Katutura thanks to JP Portugal who donated 20 MG 3 series classmate laptops. We strive to provide a successful and viable eLearning strategy, as a part of a holistic development programme for Namibian youth, one which can be emulated in other regions of Namibia. The two educational components of our eLearning programme are E-campus online learning portal based in Namibia and Video Tutor (VT) based in Germany through which learners gain access to interactive peer−reviewed material tailored to match Namibian curricula. Moreover, in collaboration with VT and drawing on a network of P.A.Y. alumni we provide one−to−one lessons via our virtual classroom creating a highly effective tutoring environment. In July 2013, Google Apps for Education has upgraded our domain www.paynamibia.org to the Education Edition which facilitates our tapping into Open Educational Resources worldwide. Importantly, we set up P.A.Y. blogosphere and established large following on Facebook and Twitter with the overall aim to increase digital literacy, facilitate internal communication & administration, and provide the youth with a platform to voice their opinion on important social issues: cycling and recycling (Move Windhoek), HIV/AIDS prevention (Kicking AIDS out), child labour prevention (SCREAM), etc. In collaboration with our friends The Tech Guys, we are planning to introduce coding as a mandatory but fun part of our eLearning curriculum with a special view to empower the girls to challenge the dominant paradigm which views programming as a strictly male domain.
In conclusion, we would like to emphasise two vital aspects of P.A.Y. programme which we feel P.A.Y. does differently from all other organisations in Namibia of the same kind. Firstly, P.A.Y. is there for youth Monday to Friday, during each semester in the academic year, with camps organised in the intersession. That allows for an enduring framework through which we help positively shape their lives. Secondly, we don’t necessarily take the best students and athletes: we take also those no one else wants to work with or barely notices and help them become the best they can be. In so doing, P.A.Y. works toward accomplishing its mission: to turn Katutura from “the place where we do not want to live” into a “place where we stay”.
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