Guest of the month: Thubelihle Nkiwane

Junior Mayoress – City of Bulawayo

Thubelihle Nkiwane

YIT: Hello Thuba please tell us more about yourself.

Thuba: My name is Thubelihle Nkiwane and I am the Junior Mayoress of the City of Bulawayo. I am 17 of age, currently in Upper Six at Dominican Convent High School.

YIT: What exactly is the Bulawayo Junior Council? Its objectives, aims, what it does? A lot of people don’t really have an idea what Bulawayo Junior Council is.

Thuba: The Bulawayo Junior Council is a junior replica of the Bulawayo city council, led by youths across Bulawayo. Our mandate is to create a vehicle in which senior scholars obtain knowledge about the city and local governance thereby creating a liaison between the Bulawayo City council (senior municipality) and the Bulawayo Junior Council. So as the junior Mayoress (together with the Junior Mayor), I lead a council board of 60 councilors from 29 WARDS and 30 schools. Our duty is to simply be service providers to the youth in our city. So we do this by representing them (since we have close contact with the government) doing rights advocacy and organizing events that address specific problems faced by youth in the city.

YIT: Is the Junior Council really relevant?

Thuba: Junior council is very relevant. I’d like to take you through the very reason for its existence in the first place. The junior council is the brainchild of the ROTARY club, and the organization was started upon realizing problems/issues that exist in society affecting young people. The purpose of this organization was to bring different youth from across the city, who are well versed and knowledgeable of the issues that affect youth in the city, placing them in platforms by which they can engage with the local government on behalf of the youngsters and bring forth solutions to those problems. Therefore junior council is a platform by which a selected group of senior scholars are given the responsibility to serve in the interests of those we represent.

YIT: As the Mayoress what role do you play in the Junior Council?

The organization is led by the Junior Mayor and Mayoress. Therefore the two of us work together to ensure the smooth running of the organization, from our weekly meetings to the events we coordinate as the junior council. In the Junior Council the Mayoress is usually referred to as the ‘mother of the council’ and I have taken upon myself to foster an environment in which girls across the city are empowered. One particular project I have been working on as a girl in a leadership position is the issue of the period poverty and menstrual health of girls. The period poverty in our community is getting worse due to soaring inflation in the country and we have tried by all means to raise funds so as to purchase sanitary wear for vulnerable girls within the community. I certainly hope that through the position I hold, I am able to inspire girls right round Bulawayo to go for those leadership positions and express that girls are just as capable.

YIT: What do you seek to achieve and what have you achieved so far?

At the beginning of our term of office, we sat down and decided to attack a number of problems that exist in society that affect the youth and work towards raising awareness on those issues and finding solutions. These issues are menstrual health, mental health and another was working towards empowering children in the city who are marginalized, including children in conflict/ contact with the law, orphans and school dropouts. Earlier in the year we held an event “let’s talk about depression” where we were able to mobilize senior scholars from schools within the city and have an open discussion with mental health professionals on the importance of mental health and how to deal with issues such as depression and mental health. We have also had a long running pad drive in which we have been able to raise funds to purchase sanitary wear for the vulnerable girls within our community and have been blessed to have organizations joining forces with us and donating to cause. We also held a “takeback2020” poetry slam in which our aim was to foster hope and courage through poetry during this pandemic that has shaken the world over.

Due to this pandemic our work as the Junior Council has been slowed down, but we definitely are looking towards working with schools to build care coordination schemes for students so that schools cultivate a mental health friendly environment.

YIT: In future what would you like to see change in the junior council, if there is any?

If schools were to work together with the respective junior councilors in their schools to find a solution and way forward in terms of issues that are faced by the youth in our city, I think there would be massive social change in the city. I am really looking forward to seeing schools and even youth in our city working together with junior councilors to create a conducive environment for our youth in Bulawayo.

YIT: How has COVID19 affected the education sector?

COVID19 has put the education system in a state of confusion. Education has been ground to a screeching halt and we wonder when we will be able to get back to the normal way of life and back to school. It makes it even more unfortunate because the alternative way to still continue with education is out of reach for so many students because of lack of resources.

YIT: Since schools are closed due to the pandemic and students have resorted to online learning, what is and should be done about the less privileged that cannot access online classes?

This is really a challenging one, but I certainly do admire the efforts that has been taken by government to air educational lessons on radio. I have tuned in to quite a number of them and they are quite helpful. Since the situation is so intense, I think these lessons should pay particular attention to examination classes.

YIT: Are you also attending online classes? Are they effective?

Yes I am attending online lessons and they are quite helpful. It definitely is not the same, but some progress is being made.

YIT: Are Bulawayo council schools ready to tackle online learning?

In all honesty, schools are not ready to tackle online lessons. Internet access is still a serious challenge and not all students and even teachers have access to internet or gadgets in which these virtual lessons can be carried out. It is really a challenge and all solutions to a ‘new normal’ seem hard to carry out.

YIT: Thank you so much for joining us Thuba we hope to continue engaging with progressive young leaders such as yourself. All the best in your endevours.

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