Marisa van der Merwe, a trustee of The Entrust Foundation, developed the award-winning programs MiniChess and MindCo, which utilise clever game innovations to unlock human talent for a fast-changing world.
South Africa is not harnessing its most powerful energy, human talent, to thrive in the 21st century. A great deal of funding in CSI is going towards the building of structures and technologies, but not enough on building human capital.
Many CSI efforts are focusing on youth unemployment in our country, and rightfully so – it is a deep societal wound that affects us all. Currently, there are more than 10 million youth with very little hope of being employable or trainable. Instead, they become grant dependent for life.
Lockdown exposed the human tragedy of escalating violence against women and children in our country. I believe the root cause of most of our societal issues, including gender-based violence, youth unemployment, and crime is seated in a lack of human development. Education is a lifelong value-building journey that starts from a young age. People who are educated are better able to reason, support and understand the value of respecting others. They are employable and, as a result, are less frustrated, can pay their bills and take care of themselves and their families. That is why educating our nation is so important; in my view even more critical than tackling the current scourge of youth unemployment – which is, in essence, the result of education dysfunction.
Correction starts at the roots. More than 90% of children in poor and rural communities are not school ready. They have developmental backlogs and lack critical skills. When starting school, they cannot keep up with curriculum pressures, and then they drop out of school with little hope of a sustainable future. Currently, the Entrust Foundation has very successful, tested and proven programmes, to ensure that this does not happen. Our programmes are able to rectify these backlogs, so that children can complete school successfully, and continue to study and work sustainably.
We urge CSI leaders in our country to be brave enough to face and correct the fundamental issues of the lack in human development, poor school-readiness, and dysfunctional education, to prevent the escalation of youth unemployment, crime and societal breakdown. Change will only happen when we invest in our county’s human potential – which has proven to deliver the best return on investment, by far.