A world of possibilities for graduates
November 19, 2023
Zona Hlophe (32) is one of 12 children and the first graduate in her family. She hails from Nhlangano, a town in the southern part of Eswatini. She came to the capital city, Mbabane, to pursue studies in Creative Multimedia at Limkokwing University of Creative Technology. On her graduation day in 2018, she invited her family to witness the occasion as she walked the stage to receive her certificate.
“It was one of the happiest days of my life,” she says. However, her joy was short-lived as she sent one job application after another and got no response. Considering that her father paid for her education through his pension and later fell sick, Hlophe felt guilty when she could not support him.
“I went into depression, and I developed anxiety from applying without getting a response,” she says.
Determined and through the unwavering support of her family, she did not give up on applying. As a result, when a friend encouraged her to apply under the Eswatini Youth Empowerment Programme (EYEP), she jumped at the opportunity. Finally, she got a call that was to turn her life around.
An ambitious programme that aims to contribute towards reducing youth unemployment – currently at 58% for the age group between 15 and 35 years – EYEP intervenes through two components – graduate placement and artisanal skills training. The programme is a partnership between the government, the private sector, academia, and civil society organisations and is supported by UNDP. EYEP created a digital platform for unemployed graduates to register and stand a chance to be matched with organisations that have expressed their interest in their skills via the portal. The graduates then undergo rigorous induction training before deployment to host organisations for six months to gain skills and experience while earning a monthly stipend.
Through EYEP, Hlophe is interning as a graphic designer at Ritog Investments, an engineering and manufacturing company based in Matsapha.
“This programme exposed me to new possibilities. I never thought I’d work for an engineering company, but here I am working with engineers and designing their products,” she says, adding: “I used to think designing a poster was the best thing I could ever do, but now it bores me.”
In the Parliament of the Kingdom of Eswatini, Mbongeni Bhembe (33), who holds an Honours Degree in Architecture and Urban Planning, is also learning new skills. Although his responsibilities include ensuring that the infrastructure is well maintained, he also works in the Clerk’s Office, coordinating meetings with stakeholders, ensuring they are well recorded and that there is a follow-up on action points.
“When you’re unemployed, you start believing that there is something wrong with you, but since I came here, doing all that I’m doing, I realise that I have something to contribute, which has built my confidence,” he says.
He is among 20 EYEP graduates interning at the Legislature. When he learnt that the EYEP portal matched him with the Legislature, he wondered what he would do at the institution, which he associated with only members of Parliament and lawyers.
“I have since learnt that a lot goes on in Parliament and that my skills are relevant. For example, there are portfolio committees, and I can play a role in the Public Works Portfolio Committee,” he says. His internship started as the country was going through an election process to put the 12th Parliament of the Kingdom of Eswatini in place.
He adds that Parliament is about to construct a new building and sees himself playing a role in that project.
His colleague, Simosethu Ndlangamandla, a Human Resources Management graduate, says she was excited about being an intern in Parliament because, although she lives at Lobamba where the Legislature is, she had never set foot inside.
“This was new because I didn’t know that other people work in parliament except for MPs, and since I started my internship, I have discovered the opportunity to network because of the multitudes of people who come to parliament for various reasons every day,” she says. She believes that interacting with many people from different backgrounds might land her a great opportunity in Parliament or elsewhere.
As they are halfway through their internship, the graduates do not know what the future holds, but, as they all say, EYEP has exposed them to a whole world of possibilities.
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