With the fast growing technology and modernisation, parents no longer have time to sit with their young ones and discuss issues affecting their lives. They rather sit and watch television or chat via social networks under the same roof.
Physically Active Youth (PAY) has taken the task of meeting the developmental needs of young adolescents on its shoulders, through offering programmes and lessons that will contribute a great deal towards positively shaping their lives.
A house of 100 youths is regarded as a community-based strategy that helps support and facilitate the healthy development of youth in at risk context in low-income neighbourhoods in Namibia.
With all that’s happening at PAY, a lot of people might be asking questions about who is behind this successful programme that is changing the lives of youth through sports and other developmental programmes.
Nenad Tomic, an Academic Officer at PAY who originates from Serbia is the master mind behind prosperity at the centre and home of many youth in Katutura.
Tomic, who is in his late 30s said working at the after school centre gave him an opportunity to engage with the learners on a daily basis, holistically, as a friend, counsellor, in various cultural activities and community projects.
“One thing that people do not know about me is that I am learning more from them than what they are learning from me, I feel like I am a Namibian and I am happy to be part of the Katutura community,” says Tomic.
He explains that they help the youth realise their potential in life and discover their talents through sport codes of their choice. “Our institution is an after-school program which strives to be fun, challenging, and comforting. We use innovative curricula and activities to promote children’s learning. It is also flexible in tailoring children’s time to their needs,” he says.
In addition, the centre also provides academic assistance by offering tutorials to learners in their school subjects. The interesting part is that tutors are graduates from the same institution, many of whom are currently furthering their studies at tertiary institutions.
One of the tutors is William Shidute, a Programme Coordinator and a former learner at PAY who joined them in 2009 when he was in grade eight. He is studying towards a Bachelor of Education at the University of Namibia.
Asked on how the programme benefits the youth William explains that PAY programme provides a safe, supervised after-school environment for youth and helps decrease juvenile crimes, teenage sexual activity and substance abuse.
“Our programme provides an opportunity for support and volunteerism, thereby enabling all Namibians to take ownership of the future of their own community” says William.
He described Tomic as a father figure to him and his mentor who helped him a lot. He adds that apart from the youth, the community at large also benefits from P.A.Y.
Currently the programme operates with two full-time and six part-time staff members, and a lot of volunteers from the Katutura community who help the centre with various activities.
The programme was established in January 2003 by Dr Donovan as a pilot study that was aimed at testing how sport can impact the performance of leaners at school. After a successful pilot, the programme continued and developed into what it is today.
Despite the fact that PAY was established mainly to see the impact of sport activities on leaners it was discovered that there was a need to introduce other programmes that will help shape the youth, to become good leaders, who would play a pivotal, positive role in their communities.
“The main aim of the programme was to empower youth through various sport codes, currently we have over 60 cyclists who came straight from the street, some of them did not even know how to ride a bicycle but as we speak they are preparing themselves for the upcoming Nedbank cycling competition,” says Tomic.
The programme was registered and funded by the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture and is seen as a tool to empower youth and eradicate unemployment. Tomic said that Nedbank and Bank Windhoek also sponsor cycling competitions they organise.
Finance is the main challenge that is limiting the institution from being where they want to be. “We are planning to expand to other parts of the country and help the youth in those area but we can only do that if we get sponsors,” explains Tomic.