Thulani Madondo, 30, of Kliptown Youth Program (KYP), South Africa, is one of the ten finalists for 2012-2013, CNN Hero of the Year award. He was selected from more than forty thousand nominees for his efforts to empower the children of Soweto. Madondo was born in a family of nine children. Due to his family’s financial burden, all the children were forced to drop out of high school. But he did not give up on his education dream, so he washed cars and worked as a stock boy to earn money in order to stay in school.

In 2001, Madondo was the first member of his family to graduate from high school. At this point college was very expensive for him to afford, however, after graduation he went on to participate in the City Year Program as a service leader in the community of Yeoville, South Africa. He received his community development practitioner certificate from Wits University and then his certificate in community development at the University of Johannesburg.

In 2007, Madondo and some of his fellow youth from Kliptown founded the “Kiliptown Youth Program.” When interviewed by CNN on the motivation behind Kiliptown Youth Program (KYP), Madondo said: “We didn’t want to see other young people going through what we’d gone through: no uniforms … feeling hungry in class. We know the problems of this community, but we also know the solutions.”

To-date KYP provides educational support and after school activities to disadvantaged children of Kliptown. Madondo oversees the entire organization. He is responsible for communicating with various stakeholders, including corporations, NGOs, government bodies, volunteers, and more. He is in charge of national and international fundraising for the organization and provides regular guided tours through Kliptown.

The people at KYP understand that, without education one loses power over their destiny. KYP also believes education is one of the best tools for fighting poverty in their community. This is why they are working hard to empower their people starting from those at a very young age “to be active community members, to have dreams, and most of all have hope about a better future.” Currently, there are about 400 children who are fully supported by the program. The program provides school fees, uniforms and books for the students who cannot afford these items.

The KYP is indeed positively impacting the young generation and shaping the future of Kilptown and South Africa. The African Economist has already published two articles stressing on the importance of education in African countries. So far 21 students have been able to pass their senior exams and secured funding to attend Universities in South Africa. The funding for higher education remains challenging and KYP has been working hard to collect funds, and help students to find internships and jobs that will enable them to finance their college education.

It is truly inspiring to see the team-work that goes on – the high school students and those in college do give back to the program by tutoring and helping out with any other extracurricular activities. “We can actually help the new generation to succeed. A little can go a long way,” said Munyai, one of the KYP members who is now studying a Diploma in Banking at the University of Johannesburg.

I could go on and on about the great work Thulani Madondo is doing. But, in short, when I read about Madondo and all he has done and continue to do in his community, I cannot help but feel guilty and really question myself…when am I going to start giving back to my community…what or who am I waiting for? It is people like Madondo that really remind us all Africans and especially those privileged with education that we can actually transform our respective communities through integrated efforts.

We know what needs to be done! The question is what is slowing us down. It will not be easy, but will be so worthy it. Africa is worth your experience, knowledge, passion, and dedication. Stop being passive and join Madondo in being active participants and agents of change in transforming and developing our precious continent.

God bless Africa!

“Until the lion has his own storyteller, the hunter will always have the best part of the story” – Chinua Achebe

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Photography by harlan erskine

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