23 October 2012

Kliptown hero attracts world attention

South Africans are urged to cast a vote for Thulani Madondo, a nominee for CNN’s Hero of the Year 2012.

Thulani Madondo. Thulani Madondo.

We know the problems of this community, but we also know the solutions - Thulani Madondo.

In Soweto's impoverished Kliptown neighbourhood, where the majority of the population of 40 000 live in appalling conditions, Thulani Madondo is a hero. Madondo is the director and co-founder of the Kliptown Youth Programme (KYP), an after-school programme he designed to help young people whose life experiences mirrored his own.

KYP provides 400 local children with school fee support, supplementary tutoring, meals and extra-mural activities such as sports and performance arts. For many of them, the programme has been a launch pad to tertiary education.

Now the 30-year-old Madondo, who grew up in a family of 9 and washed cars to pay his own school fees, has made it to the Top 10 of the 2012 CNN Hero of the Year award. The award honours everyday people around the world who go to extraordinary lengths to better the lives of others.  

For Madondo and his colleagues, who founded KYP 5 years ago, their motivation was obvious: 'we didn't want to see other young people going through what we'd gone through: no uniforms ...feeling hungry in class', Madondo explains. 'We know the problems of this community, but we also know the solutions.'

Rather than wait for action from government, Madondo and friends took matters into their own hands.

KYP demands a commitment from its members. Children, along with a parent or guardian, must sign a contract that requires them to stay in school and attend mandatory tutoring sessions twice weekly. In return, KYP provides uniforms, books and school fees.

'We're not just giving hand-outs. We're making kids earn whatever they get,' says Madondo. On Fridays and Saturdays sports and cultural activities are on offer. A library and laptops are some of the other facilities members can make use of.

Madondo and the other nominees will be honoured in a live broadcast that airs on 2 December 2012 called CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute. They will each receive $5 000, and the one named CNN Hero of the Year will receive an additional $250 000 to continue their work.  

The winner will be decided by public vote now open until 28 November. South Africans are urged to cast a vote for Madondo and help him secure the additional funding KYP so greatly needs.

Up to 10 votes a day can be cast at http://edition.cnn.com/SPECIALS/cnn.heroes/2012.heroes/thulani.madondo.html