A lack of opportunities in Westlake leaves many young people there with nothing to do but idly walk the neighbourhood’s streets, but 17-year-old Siseko Jokazi wants to turn things around.
The Sibelius High School Grade 10 pupil has started his own games club. Targeting the ages 13 and up, he wants to give the youth something fun and constructive to do.
“Westlake is a small area hidden in a suburb, you won’t hear much about the area,” he says “Youth walk up and down the streets, there is nothing that they can do. There is a lot that the youth could come up with, but currently no one is helping them. We don’t have any activities here in Westlake.”
Siseko lives with his mother and grandmother, and he helps his grandmother, Linah Jokazi, with the vegetable garden she has been running in the community since 2004.
He is also a member of the drama club and school choir. He is the vice chairperson of his school’s representative council of learners and was recently appointed as a member of the Junior City Council.
It was his JCC interview that sparked the idea of starting the games club in Westlake. “The ward councillor on the interviewing panel asked me what I would do to bring change in my community. I said I would come up with an initiative to keep the youth busy, off the streets and out of things that wouldn’t be an investment in their future, like drug abuse and alcoholism.”
This, he says, is a huge problem in Westlake with children from the age of 10 walking around holding liquor or smoking in front of adults. “No one is doing anything to try and change that in the community,” he says.
Ward councillor Carolynne Franklin says Westlake is meant to house 2 500 people but now houses close to 16 000.
“Because of that the infrastructure and the social development is taking a lot of strain,” she says. “A lot of the children have absent moms and dads. A lot of them are from child-headed households, so it is very difficult for them to attend structured schooling, or even to afford the taxi fare to get out of Westlake to go to primary schools if they can’t get into Westlake Primary. Something like a games club is really going to bring the community together.”
Ms Franklin has been helping Siseko to start the club. She says that after putting feelers out on social media, she received an overwhelming response from residents in her ward, which apart from Westlake includes Constantia, Kirstenhof,Tokai and Muizenberg.
“Some of the games are fancier than I have ever seen in my life, but I am sure the kids will get round to playing it. They are really strategy games. But there is a lot of nice basic stuff: Scrabble, Monopoly, a lot of packs of cards, which are great for numeracy and hand eye-coordination.”
Siseko is excited to see the idea grow. “The youth needs to change,” he says. “We need to change their mentality. Most are drop-outs here and don’t care about school. We need to change that mentality. Coming up with support groups, like the games club helps.”