Black Diamonds online spoke to an inspiring young man. Here is his story and journey of hope in his own words:
My name is Tebang Ntsasa, and I am 24 years old. I am currently residing at an informal settlement called Holomisa Camp, in Klipspriut, Soweto. I am the last-born at home from a family of five. My childhood was not a smooth one like most last-borns will experience. I started selling sweets at primary school so that I could be able to afford stationery and have pocket money. I also sold newspapers on Saturday nights so that I could be able to go to the tuck shop at school and grab some lunch. Doing so at that age taught me to be responsible.
Growing up in an informal settlement is not easy, especially when you don’t have your family around. As much as my family was not around, I felt their presence each day. It’s all thanks to the supportive brother, Lisema Ntsasa, I have in my life.
The environment I live in is precarious. You see young people committing to substance abuse, illegal gambling as a means of survival amongst the residents (including young people), high teenage pregnancy, and no role models to look up to. That’s the kind of environment I live in; young people my age with seemingly no hope.
South Africa is faced with a number of social challenges which continue to hinder economic development. High unemployment rate amongst young people continues to increase partly because university students are not employable apparently due to a lack of life skills. Newly established businesses fail to thrive because there are insufficient entrepreneurial skills training opportunities, young people being unable to make informed career decisions.
That’s the reality we have to face as a developing country. How do we find ways in which such challenges can be addressed in a practical manner? This requires collaboration or collective effort.
Throughout my journey I have learnt that young people need hope, and pride to say I am part of the team that thrives to give hope towards the betterment of their lives while imparting critical skills that will contribute meaningfully to their future.
I have always wanted to be different from my peers looking at the different life styles they chose, but I had no clue how to achieve this. Throughout my journey, I was fortunate to meet with young people my age, from different backgrounds, who saw the world differently, and also being a member of a think tank NGO that believes in youth development helped a lot.
My journey started in 2009, after being selected to take part in a youth programme called Life Skills and Mentorship Programme, now called Youth Leadership and Entrepreneurship Development (YLED), while I was doing my grade 12 at Orlando West High School; That’s the first time I got introduced to Junior Achievement South Africa and I was truly honoured to be associated with an organisation that continues to develop young people through entrepreneurial training.
Throughout the programme I saw the importance of giving back to the community by volunteering. Every Saturday, young professionals from FNB would come through to share learnt skills with us, seeing them giving up their weekends just to empower us as young people made me realize that giving back is not only about donating money but, also, the time you spend sharing learnt skills will go a long way in changing lives.
During the programme, I was able to establish my name as a participant and saw myself walking away with Overall Best Student, Best General Manager, and Entrepreneurial Spirit Award at the end of a programme where we were tasked to start, run, manage and liquidate a business. Not even a single day had I ever thought of balance sheets, income statements, writing a business plan but through the programmme I learnt those skills which continue to add value in my journey as a social entrepreneur who is in the business of developing other young people.
I can say that the defining moment in my journey was the awards ceremony at the end of the programme. Walking away with more than three awards on the day was the cherry on top. Even today, I still ask myself questions on how I managed to speak business language, run a profitable business that made over R11, 000.00 in five weeks of sales when the only language I could be speak and understand at that time was science!
It wasn’t easy as competition amongst us as participants was always high. The expectations from the Programme Manager were also high considering the time they invested in nurturing our minds.
When I got a phone call from Steven Zwane in 2012 to serve as the Project Administrator for YLED, I knew very little about administration but through his guidance I was able to navigate through. I served as the administrator for a year, and in 2013 I found myself doing Business Development for the NGO. At some point it was hard for me to believe that it is actually me doing such work for the organisation, knocking on different doors asking for funds, writing proposals which in most cases are unlikely to be read by the receiver or don’t even get feedback from the person you have sent it to. The number of declines is endless if but that didn’t stop me from knocking!
It was not easy; there was a point in time when I felt that I was actually not doing my best and wanted to give up as I hadn’t secured any funds for about a year as the business developer for the NGO. When we were busy reviewing our individual performance with Steven, he said to me “I am investing in your personal development and growth Tebang, you don’t owe me or YLED anything.” Those words made me appreciate his presence in my journey, not only as a mentor but someone who understands what it means to go through the university of life.
Having fulfilled the role of volunteer, administrator, and business development consultant, my next move is to run the NGO!
People often ask me what do I do for a living, and most fail to understand. I often tell them that I am a social entrepreneur; the business I am in is to develop young people’s Life, Leadership, Career Development, Entrepreneurial, and Social Awareness Skills. That’s the journey I have chosen to travel. Seeing young people who went through our programmes making a transition from high school to university, graduating from university and getting jobs or starting their own businesses keeps me waking up every morning.
The youth development space influenced my academic journey immensely. Having graduated from Wits Business School in 2014, I realised the importance of backing up your experience with the academic piece. This year I have enrolled for a Social Entrepreneurship Programme at the Gordon Institute of Business Science, and I am doing research on Creating Shared Value within the corporate social investment space. I believe that will contribute meaningfully in my journey as I travel the social entrepreneurship journey.
You will be told that you can be what you want to be in life, but through conversations with the man who has invested in my personal development I have learnt that you can always be what you aspire to be. Dreams change, so does passion. Do what you love and are passionate about, and things such as money will fall your way. Find a mentor who will invest in your personal development, walk the journey with you, let you fail so can you learn from your mistakes and have a better story to share with the upcoming generation.