Programme assists youth at risk

Members of Pathfinders Cadets DCLT (Western Cape), a division of Uphuhliso Abantu (empowered people), based at the Alliance Française hall, in Wall Street, Portland.

A Portland-based group of facilitators and Mitchell’s Plain youth are charting new paths in running programmes to promote alternatives to negative behaviour, gangsterism and drugs.

The non-profit company Pathfinders Cadets DCLT (Western Cape), a division of Uphuhliso Abantu (empowered people), based at the Alliance Française hall, in Wall Street, Portland, had been hard at work since 2017.

The youth get together every Saturday between 8am and 4pm.

They met on Saturday March 21 to assess the youth and followed strict Covid-19 restrictions as set by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday March 15.

These included keeping their gathering below 100 participants and practising social distancing.

Alistair de Kock, founding member and chief executive officer of the programme in the Western Cape, said they have partnered with the Western Cape Education Department (WCED), to help at schools, where pupils are at risk of being suspended and given “community service” hours instead to improve their environment.

They work closely with Mitchell’s Plain Maternity Obstetric Unit (MOU) in Eastridge, FAMSA (Families South Africa) in Portland and the police’s anti-gang unit.

They have programmes with up to 80 members at a time focused on anti-bullying, drug intervention, prevention and skills development.

“The WCED contacts us if there is a problem at a specific school. We visit the school, tell them what we are about and they decide whether they would like us to assist them with a particular problem,” said Mr De Kock.

He said chronic truancy was when pupils extended their weekend by a day, when they don’t attend school on Monday.

Mr De Kock also referred to pupils bunking periods, where they are not at school for certain classes.

“We do home visits and interact closely with the police, court staff and social services,” he said.

The programme includes school resources officer duty, where members are deployed at schools to reduce and prevent school-related violence and crime through building effective partnerships between identified schools in Mitchell’s Plain and in the greater Metro South Education District (MSED).

They have received extensive training in the use of fire-arms, pepper spray and radio procedures, as well as by-law training.

Community Work Programme (CWP) supervisor Fred Arendse said the group was instrumental in an attempt to prevent pupils from dropping out of school, teenage pregnancy, reducing unemployment which often resulted in gangsterism and substance abuse.

“This partnership, which we have forged with the Pathfinders is critical to ensuring a better future for the youth of today,” he said.

For more information call Mr De Kock on 065 948 3017.