Lusanda Magwape, attorney and CEO of the Dream Factory Foundation, has taken it upon herself to help uphold the constitutional rights of our children. Through her team’s work, she is helping to create safe spaces for children across the nation so that they can exercise their rights as South Africans – the right to safety and the right to an education.
Between 2017 and 2019, Amnesty International, together with the National Association of School Governing Bodies (NASGB), surveyed school safety in parts of South Africa, finding that 54% of learners and teachers did not feel safe in their schools. About 26% said that there had been attacks on learners and even on teachers in their schools. Concerningly, 56% indicated that their schools had suffered theft, vandalism, or both. Issues schools face include harmful objects brought to schools, drugs, alcohol, bullies and gangsterism, verbal abuse, physical violence, discrimination and sexual violence.
The Dream Factory Foundation offers educational programmes, including tutoring and mentorship, for vulnerable, at-risk youth. Lusanda and her team assist, inspire, and guide our youth to live impactful, purpose-driven lives.
Lusanda recounts various challenges faced during the ‘Be the Dream’ programme. The programme uses the Positive Youth Development (PYD) approach, recognised by the Western Cape Department of Education as an after-school programme.
With so many schools in turmoil, she rose to the challenge, mobilising the support of PricewaterhouseCooper to transport children to their offices, and finding safer grounds for tutoring and mentorship. Imagine a child being handed a blank page and asked what every human being should be asked at some time in their life: ‘What is your dream for your life?’ No sooner have they considered and written a response, than they’re hurried away from potential danger because the venue where they’re thinking about these things is just not safe. It is a physiological fact that access to our cognitive abilities is hindered when we’re in survival mode. What does this mean for our children? It means that our children are not safe to think, engage their creative faculties, and dream.
As part of the Positive Youth Development programme, children write what is called a ‘Dream Letter.’ Once they have deeply considered their hopes and dreams, and committed them to paper, the Dream Factory Foundation helps children to take the steps necessary to break their dream down into components and begin realising it through effective, consistent mentorship. When she founded the Dream Factory, Lusanda had black postboxes in which children would ‘post’ their letters. So far, the process has sparked an inner dialogue in over 50 000 children across Africa, simply by asking this fundamental question. This is the full-circle moment. Lusanda’s ‘dream letter’ approach calls on South Africans to be front and centre in addressing the needs of South Africans. She contends that it is our generation’s duty not only to break the cycle of economic poverty, but poverty of the imagination, of the will and of hope. These are essential components of a meaningful education. Educational poverty in general prevents our youth from believing they can achieve success.
Lusanda and the Dream Factory Foundation do what they do because, as she says, our children’s rights to safety and education are non-negotiables. Every child should have a safe place in which to dream. Every child should have at least one adult who believes in their dreams, and who will support them in looking outward to the bigger picture, where they may find inspiration. A too narrow focus on our own lives and circumstances can keep us constricted, preventing us from becoming all that we can be. The Dream Factory team creates the space and the kind of nurturing environment where all of this is possible.
The Dream Factory Foundation also runs an empowerment programme in the low-income settlement of Philippi in the Western Cape, enrolling women in the Emergent Academy. During classes, students learn how to ‘take up space’. The six-month programme equips young women aged 18-25 with personal and professional development skills in agriculture, computer technology and digital skills, and provides them with the tools to start an entrepreneurial venture or gain work experience through internships. So far, the digital skills component of the programme has trained almost 16000 youth in coding, online safety and general digital skills.
As the Dream Factory Foundation grows, so does the need for more mentors who are experts in various fields. If you’re interested in finding out how you can help, please contact email@example.com.