A music foundation in South Africa is using music as a tool to lure young people away from gangs and drug culture – by providing instruments, free lessons and other opportunities.
1,400 township children in Gauteng Province will be part of the initiative, which also offers the chance to earn recognised qualifications and to perform in orchestras and ensembles.
Prof Karendra Devroop, Unisa’s acting director for music, says. “Research is very clear that music has a positive impact on kids and it’s twofold: socially it impacts their lives because it’s a happy environment and it’s psychologically valuable with a sense of happiness, optimism and perseverance.”
Devroop took over the 15-year-old project six years ago and implemented a rapid expansion plan after seeing similar projects working well in the US. The project has since produced many stories of success.
For example, Septimus Mazwi is a former prisoner who studied music through Unisa’s presence in jails. “He came through the prison system, got his qualifications and became one of our top teachers in Soweto,” says Devroop. “He counsels the kids on all the reasons why you don’t want to go to jail, so he’s teaching them life lessons.”
Unisa asks two things of all the youngsters who go through its community music programme: First, that they give back to their community through their skills, because somebody gave to them. Second, that they never stop playing their instrument and that they sometimes come and play with its ensembles so younger children can look up to them as role models.
Image from Pixabay, reproduced under Creative Commons CC0.