It has been reported that 23 000 inmates are released on a monthly basis in South Africa, into a market economy with one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world.
To try better the odds for young ex-offenders in the country and in an effort to break the negative perceptions of prison communities, The Message South Africa is providing ex-offenders with business and entrepreneurship skills in a six-month pre-release programme.
The organization launched the Message Entrepreneurship Program (MEP) on Thursday at Drakenstein Correctional Centre (DCC) were 26 young men were enrolled.
Tim Tucker, the National Director of The Message SA, says they want to work with young men whilst they are still in prison to help them prepare for the economic opportunities and challenges they will face, once they are released.
We’ve been in existence for 18 months and what we do is that we seek to provide an environment, for guys who were caught up in gangs or in prisons, to be able to turn their life around, have a fresh start and be able to fulfil their potential. And a key component of that is employment. One of the greatest challenges, if you want to turn your life around, is being able to become economically active and be able to provide for your family.
Jade Wyngaard, an ex-offender who is employed through The Message SA programme says that his life has been changed by the initiative.
I was served with a twelve year sentence, which I have done 8 years of. I got an opportunity to undergo interviews. They would ask if I have a criminal record and my basic answer would be ‘yes’. They would always respond with “Don’t call us, we’ll call you”. Luckily, with The Message SA, I was provided with so many opportunities.
Tucker says the MEP programme is facilitated by an MBA graduate. and that the the ex-offenders enrolled in the programme are divided into five companies with mentors in positions of senior business leadership. They are also required to develop their own business plans during the course of the programme.
Visit The Message SA's website for more information on this initiative.
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