By Paul Ndiho
Sihle Tshabalala spent more than a decade in prison for armed robbery, but he now teaches township kids who are at risk of turning to crime I-T skills. He was recently highlighted by the World Economic Forum for his project which is giving disadvantaged youth, a new lease on life. VOA’s Paul Ndiho has more
Former inmate, Sihle Tshabalala spent nearly 11 years behind bars. He was just 19 when he was incarcerated — and while in prison, he taught himself how to write computer code and it helped to turn his life around. Today, Tshabalala is using those skills to touch other lives. He has partnered with another former inmate to start the “Brothers for All” center in Langa Township, Cape Town. It is a non-governmental organization that works to alleviate poverty and crime in South Africa.
The duo dual empowers disadvantaged children by them teaching basic computer skills. As the students get better, they learn more complex coding, which makes it possible to create computer software, apps
“I always tell people that we are in the business of selling hope even though the price tag is free but we sell hope to the people that have lost hope. Now the demographic of the people we work with, we work with high school dropouts, teenage mothers, unemployed youth and employed youth and also ex-offenders and offenders that we teach coding.”
According to the polling organization, “Statistics South Africa”, poverty, drugs and crime are rife in the country’s poor communities. But initiatives like the coding project can help to empower the youth who live in the poor townships to get life skills.
Gilbert Duquzumuremy is a volunteer who works with the “Brothers for All.” He is an IT graduate who immigrated to South Africa from Rwanda.
“I did computer science when I was in my country. I did it from 2012 to 2015 but I did not get a job because there is a problem of jobs, no job creation. I decided to come to South Africa. By intervention of one of my friends, he gave me a lead to “Brothers for All” and when I came there I said this is my place to be because I know how to code, I did coding then I decided to help them out as a volunteer.”
Those who attend the coding classes say they have not only gained valuable new skills but the classes also keep them away from more negative activities.
“It does help me a lot because in Khayelitsha there are a lot of gangsters there when you go outside there are lots of guys sitting on the corners smoking, and when you come across them you just get scared of them so computer programming it helps me a lot as I spend my time here programming it keeps me out of a bad mind.”
Tshabalala says his work is receiving recognition both locally and abroad including at the World Economic Forum earlier this year. Recently, the organization began the first coding program at a prison just outside of Cape Town. He says working with disadvantaged communities is his driving passion.
“Now, the response has been quite amazing because these are people that thought they would never do something magnificent with their lives but because they are now given the opportunity they then see something different and light at the end of the tunnel,”
The “Brothers for All” initiative is giving young people from Cape Town’s poorest communities the opportunity to turn their lives around. Still, with few job opportunities and little education, many more youth continue to struggle, resorting to crime and a life of violence.
By Paul Ndiho