Learning for Sustainability

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Capacity building for sustainable human settlementsLearning for Sustainability, a section 21 company, operating as a Further Education and Training (FET) college, has been set up by the Sustainability Institute. It has emerged out of the SI’s Sustainable Neighbourhood Programme that was funded by the National Department of Human Settlements. This is an ambitious, three year, country-wide capacity development project, which aimed to operationalise South Africa’s National Housing policy Breaking New Ground (BNG), with a focus on Integrated Sustainable Human Settlements.

The project conducted several surveys of housing officials and settlement practitioners, which identified capacity needs at provincial, local government and community level.
The findings translated into what now has been developed into a skills programme for NQF level 1, aimed at community members and NQF level 4 for junior and mid-level government officials in the following fields.NQF Level 1           credits 50
1. Sustainable Community Housing
2. Integrated Sustainable Human Settlements
3. Sustainable Construction
4. Financial Life Skills, Tenure Options and Contracts

NQF Level 4    credits 92
1. Financial and Project Management
2. Integrated Sustainable Human Settlements
3. Creating Housing in Sustainable Communities
4. Local Economic Development

To kick start the project, each province was requested to identify a community linked to a contractor-driven or People’s Housing Process (PHP) housing project/s. (we highly recommend PHP projects).Two projects would be selected per province, splitting the 55 participants per province into 27/28 per project. The nominated projects should needed to be at their initial stages of development, as participants would be trained in the various housing aspects that will allow them to create integrated sustainable communities
This programme has been conducted in all 9 Provinces and the response from community members and government officials has been quite inspiring. Below are a few positive stories that have emerged:
Free State Province
This province jumped at the opportunity and managed to secure a (PPP),  Private-Public-Partnership, between a private construction company, learning for sustainability and Government. The programme initially only allowed for the foundation of the house to be built, however through this partnership,  participants were able to build an entire house with the extra material subsidised by the private company owned by Mofedi . They also committed to absorb two top students, whom they would mentor and further train. This is a good example of what we would like to see take place in the country. Business, Government and NPO’s coming together to address the skills challenge.
Harrismith Community
The people in Khalanyoni Tshiam  were protesting because the sites or stands on which their Reconstructive Development Plan (RDP) houses were to be built only had toilets built on them and these were being sold to them by the municipality. The community decided to break the toilets  in protest against this decision. When the community members who had done our Introduction to Sustainable Development programme heard this, they approached protesting community members and requested them not to demolish the toilets as they’ll still need them after the matter has been resolved. They told them that if they are unhappy with something they must find a peaceful, constructive way of resolving misunderstanding, and this was well received by the angered community members and they listened. The minister visited this small community in the Free State and talked to them, which is highly significant. They claim that the programme has taught them to negotiate rather than go into rampage and destroy things that they’ll ultimately need when things have been resolved.
Eastern Cape
Participants in the Eastern Cape were so motivated after the programme that they began to seek other opportunities to further develop themselves.  Some volunteered to be part of the census programme, where they will gain more knowledge about their communities. We highly recommend this level of community engagement where young people take an interest in the world around them.
The facilitator in Kwa-Zulu Natal (KZN) took the training a step further and arranged for bank managers from various banks to sit in on the participant’s presentation during the Financial Life skills course.  The module focused on how to write business plans as well as how one should manage one’s finances. Bank managers listened and advised participants on the running of small business. This opportunity allowed participants an opportunity to really interrogate their business ideas for feasibility.
These successes did not come easy. There were many challenges throughout the duration of the programme, some political and social. However, despite the many challenges that surfaced we were able to achieve the goals we had set out with our partners.
We’ve always maintained that one’s development does not happen if we are sitting at home, watching television; it takes place when we actively engage with other people. We have encouraged the participation of community members in co-creating integrated sustainable places of settlement.
Looking forward we are pleased to see the seeds sown begin to blossom.

Written by Manda Mabeba