We sat down with Child and Youth Care Practitioner Sethembile Ndlovu, she unpacks for us her life story and her passion for children and the youth: A truly inspirational story;

I am Sithembile Ndlovu, a qualified Child and Youth Care Practitioner and a young Social Entrepreneur from Dassenhoek in Kwa-Zulu Natal. I am the co-founder of Sithuthukile Pre- School and Eliny’ithuba NPO in KwaNdengezi near Pinetown. 

I was born and bred in Durban, I don’t talk much about family but I was born in a family of six. Unfortunately, all my siblings passed away before I even turned 10 years old and my mom followed them in 2012. Nonetheless, I do have a loving father, awesome relatives and caring individuals in my circle who have become family. I am future-oriented and passionate about educating, developing, restoring and advocating for children and youth at risk. Currently, my focus is on providing access to Early Childhood Development to children in underprivileged communities. I want to build an early learning system that is focused on improving quality education and helping children enter formal school ready to learn.

I believe this career chose me. Life was very unkind growing up, there were times when I thought happiness wasn’t made for me. There were always funerals at home and I became traumatised by losing family members every other year, to being diagnosed with TB and fighting for my life, then experiencing the most dehuminising moment of being raped and violently assaulted. But then again nothing surpasses the pain of losing my mother. It’s the kind of pain you only know, once you have experienced it and it brought out a new me.

I attended a couple of counselling session to repair my broken life and met other women who were going through similar and more difficult circumstances than me and after hearing their different stories week after week I knew I had to do something about it. It broke my heart to realise how much trauma children, youth and women go through with all the abuse and inequality happening in South Africa. From then onwards I wanted to make a difference, to change lives and to advocate for the rights of women and children.

I completed a National Diploma in 2015 and a Degree of Bachelor of Technology in Child and Youth Development in 2016 at the Durban University of Technology. I was trained in Civic leadership by YALI RLC SA at UNISA Business school of Leadership in Midrand in the same year, and I went through a Social Entrepreneurship programme at Monash South Africa for their first MSALEAD yearlong fellowship program for the top 10 young Social Entrepreneurs in South Africa. We were the first generation of innovators and entrepreneurs to be introduced to the leading private higher education provider’s first formalised business incubator.

I became a Mandela Washington Fellow in 2017, in the Civic leadership track which I obtained from

Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the United States of America. The Mandela

Washington Fellowship is the flagship program of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative

(YALI), and it empowers young African leaders through academic coursework, leadership training,

mentoring, networking, professional opportunities, and support for activities in their communities. After

the academic experience on the fellowship, I did an internship for Professional Development Experience

in the City of Seattle Department of Education and Early Learning. During this internship I focused on

strategies for inclusive education in Early Learning and practical ways in engaging children with special

need in active learning. And I also learned to implement child care policy development, enrolment,

facilities approval and Race & Social Justice toolkits on processes.

My most proudest moments, firstly it was receiving an award for being in the top 10 young Social entrepreneurs in South African. Secondly, being selected for the Mandela Washington Fellowship and last but not least seeing my pre-schoolers graduate at the end of each school year, knowing that they are fully equipped to start at a primary school.

I am currently working diligently on elevating the standard of Early Childhood Development, in underprivileged communities with the goal to impact a large number of children by providing access to Early Childhood Development and creating job opportunities for qualified ECD teachers.

I believe that the first seven years in a child’s life are of paramount important in sharpening the mind of an individual and a learner’s performance is determined by the cognitive development formed during early childhood before the child enters school. The loss of my mom was the most difficult situation I ever went through, even thou I’m counting years now since is happened it’s still at the top of the list. I don’t think I have overcame it, I just live each day trying to reflect her respectable lessons in grooming me

The people I admire for their humanitarian work. Wow, you placing me on a spot here. I adore Oprah Winfrey, Khanyi Dhlomo, the late Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Michelle and Barack Obama as well as the young African Leaders who are doing amazing humanitarian work in their own spheres that I have met over the years.

My advice for the youth is your life is your own responsibility, proper planning prevents poor performance. Study while you are still young and make sure that you learn as much as possible. Your dreams are valid, never let anyone tell you that your dream is impossible, if you put your mind to it you can do it. No dream is too small or too big, you just need to believe in yourself then everything is possible.

In the next 5 years I’m hoping to have made a difference on children accessing education from Early Childhood Development to tertiary education while also encouraging entrepreneurship and scarce skills to eradicate poverty in our communities. My long term goal for Early Childhood Development is to start an Incubator project that will assist and unite ECD centres in KwaZulu Natal and Africa at large. This project will aim at offering support and providing resources to preschool teachers from underprivileged communities. I want to open a space where child care workers can be able to share information and strategies in dealing with children’s behavioural needs, socio emotional development and resiliency.

If I had to describe myself in 5 words: I am a passionate philanthropist.