South Africa’s unemployment rate necessitates public institutions being accountable and seeking to redress structural unemployment and inequalities. Youth unemployment rate is estimated to be over 58% and it is on this basis that government imperatives for job creation and youth empowerment are prioritised. In recent years there has been a call for public/private partnerships to aid in the developmental agenda as per the National Development Plan (Vision 2030) and the Sustainable Developmental Goal to eradicate poverty. It is against this background that the National Library of
South Africa (NLSA) entered into a partnership with the Telkom Foundation and the Provincial Library Services for the implementation of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Internship Programme.
The installation of ICT equipment in libraries necessitated that libraries raise awareness about internet usage and basic computer skills needed in this digital era. However, most South Africans, particularly from rural areas lack the skills to use ICT equipment and therefore the NLSA supported the launch of the Internship Programme to recruit 100 unemployed youth from indigent communities to be equipped with ICT skills.The NLSA together with the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture (DSAC) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation rolled out the Mzantsi Libraries On-Line (MLO) Project which invested in ICT infrastructure and equipment in public libraries in all nine provinces. An extension of the MLO Project by the NLSA and DSAC identified the need to place skilled human resources in community libraries to support the integration of the ICT equipment with related skills to better serve the communities.
The ICT Internship Programme required learners to have a minimum of a Grade 12 qualification in order to qualify for the Programme. The Programme deliberately attempts to ensure that of the 100 leaders, 70% are women and 5% are people living with disabilities. In so doing, the Programme attempts to extended the opportunities available to traditionally marginalised persons.
Based on the learning outcomes, the Internship consists of theory and practical learning, which enables the Interns to acquire ICT Technical Support and Systems Development knowledge and skills over a period of 12 months. Upon completion of the Programme the Interns are presented with a National Qualifications Framework (NQF) certification which they can use for entrepreneurial opportunities or career aspirations.
On the relevance of the Internship Programme, Tiisetso Sibiya, one of the Interns said that the Programme has prepared her to enter the marketplace with the ability to assist community members. “The programme has provided me with an opportunity to gain knowledge, skills and experience,” said Tiisetso. Since successfully completing the Programme Tiisetso has been offered a 12-month contract by the Gauteng Provincial Library Services. It is also noteworthy that over 60% of the Interns had their contracts renewed due to an excellent work track record established by the Internship Programme.
The role of libraries in the developmental agenda is evolving as libraries are key drivers to bridge the information gap in communities. Libraries are instrumental in helping citizens to transform their lives by providing access to relevant information.