As South Africa approaches Youth Day on June 16, the relevance, importance and future of the country’s youth is once again coming under the spotlight. However, the fact is that as a society we cannot wait for one day each year to give our youth a platform where they can express their hopes, dreams, fears and concerns. As the future leaders, business men and politicians of South Africa, we should be listening to what they have to say every day.

Ivy Academy, a Boston City Campus initiative, has recognised that the youth need a voice and that developing this voice is of the utmost importance. The Academy is encouraging its learners to use poetry as a means of expressing their views on the world around them, their personal experiences and anything else they feel they want to talk about.

‘Through our Poetry of the People, or PoP Poetry as it is commonly known, we have given youngsters a platform where they are able to use poetic license to share and inspire their peers through the power of their own words,’ says Kathy Martin, Head of Academics for Ivy Academy.

She adds that aside from the obvious academic benefits, the school believes that initiatives such as PoP Poetry help to develop students that are informed, balanced and not afraid to speak out.

According to Noluthando Nala (17), PoP Poetry has created a platform for the youth to express their feelings and to broadcast their thoughts. She is backed up by fellow poet, Thabo Nyathi (17) who says: ‘I like to inspire others and PoP Poetry allows me to share my feelings with others as well as showing how things can change.’

PoP Poetry also helps youngsters realise that they are not alone – that there are others who are going through the same things as them. ‘Others can relate to your experiences and they are able to realise that it is ok to be young and naïve or unsure about yourself,’ says the outspoken and aspiring business woman and CSI crusader, Joy Magwaza (17).

‘I love the confidence PoP Poetry gives you – the audience holds up signs of applauding hands or the thumbs up sign. It encourages you to speak and be heard,’ says Joy.

Whilst the introduction to PoP Poetry for most of these students has come through class assignments, it is obvious that the joy of ‘speaking their mind’ and ‘influencing their fellow students’ has become a passion that is shaping who they are and where they are going.

‘I am actually very quiet and I want to tell others that when they can’t speak the best thing to do is to write. I always run to my computer and start to write – when I have had a bad day or whatever… poetry has given me a voice,’ says the youngest of the group Kiano Naidoo (16).

Inspired by the world around them, events, nature, music, family, friends and even their teachers, these students provide an interesting commentary on the state of their communities and the country as a whole. Many of them mention how they see their poetry as an opportunity to create change and shift the opinion of those around them.

‘If people recognise this talent that you’ve got, why not put it out there?  Because it is who you are – you can become a person others look up to and you can talk about things that the younger generation can learn from,’ says Corbin Schwarz (20).

This is most definitely not a passing phase either as all of these young Ivy Academy learners have recognised the benefits of being involved with PoP Poetry. Joy goes as far as to say that she hopes that it will remain something solid in her life as she embarks on her university career next year. ‘I hope it will keep me away from the drugs and negativity that students so often get involved in. I really think that it can provide a solution to things like violence – why not write about how you want to punch that person rather than actually doing it. It is a small solution but it is a step towards making a better South Africa.’

And a better South Africa is what these youngsters are hoping for. They all feel that June 16th should be a day that is never forgotten as they feel they need to honour the youth of that day who took a stand against what they thought was wrong and in so doing created the opportunities that they have today.

‘I am so humbled and grateful for what they did. If they had not protested then we would not be here enjoying the freedom of speech, education and choice that we do,’ says Thando.

Naidoo is in agreement saying that ‘if they could take a stand like that then we can take a stand now and make something better with our lives. I believe the time has come for the youth to stop being the judge and start being the contestant’.

Martin is justifiably proud of these young learners. ‘These are no doubt the leaders of tomorrow, and if it were not for initiatives like the PoP Poetry Competitions, they may well have gone unnoticed. Not all of them are natural speakers but all of them have a strong voice and the experience of standing up and being heard has made them realise the power they have individually and as a group.

Being fearless is what PoP Poetry is all about. ‘You have to believe anything is possible. If you feel it, then it is something you want. You have to give it your all… rather try and fail than never try at all.’

These are indeed powerful words spoken by a committed youth who are demanding to be heard not just on Youth Day but every day.

Article issued by Boston City Campus