He knew he wanted to shape the minds of his peers from a young age and at the age of 27, Heartlines values and money facilitator, Tshepo Sitole, is doing just that.
In school he was a quiet and observant child. By the time he finished matric, he had developed into a confident leader, who left his mark.
“I had three close friends and was very much involved in school activities. There was no soccer team and we created one. We started a debating team and an after-school programme. We left a legacy that still stands today,” he says.
Growing up in Soweto had its challenges. He was raised by his grandmother, along with his cousins. and two adults who were unemployed He longed for the support of his parents, who were unfortunately unable to provide this. Nevertheless, he learnt valuable money lessons from his gran, who taught him to save to achieve his goals.
“She always saved for big purchases like buying a stove or material to renovate her house. This year, I saved to renovate my mother’s kitchen, buy a geyser and help with other projects around my parents’ home. My grandmother taught me how to budget, save and set a timeline so that I can reach my goals.”
Tshepo says giving back to his family is a choice and goal he set for himself. However, there are many young black people who feel obligated to support their families when they start working, which is called “Black Tax”.
“I honestly believe Black Tax is self inflicted. You don’t have to take on the responsibility to support your family if you can’t afford to. We should create an environment where we sit with our families and open up about our goals. Young people are finding themselves in debt for supporting their families and wanting material things like nice phones, holidays with friends, entertainment and clothing,” he says.
“I speak to my friends and siblings about saving and when we want to go out and have a good time, we plan in advance so we don’t spend recklessly. We are intentional with how we spend our money, we also support one another with advice when making financial decisions.”
Tshepo says he’s found that letting others in on your goals opens up channels of communication and sets up healthy expectations.
“My family knows my goals and I’ve offered to assist them but I’m confident enough to say “No” if I’m asked for something that is not in my budget. When you’re open, you’ll find support. I’m often held accountable for my spending by my family and friends who make sure I don’t fall behind in achieving my goals,” he adds.
As a values and money facilitator at Heartlines, Tshepo has beens sharing his knowledge on Westside FM radio with young people in the township of Kagiso in Johannesburg as well as CUT FM, a campus radio station at the University of Bloemfontein.
“The young people who called in talked about struggling to plan for their future and dealing with expectations to support their families. They are also being influenced by the media because they believe image is important. We want to look fashionable, sound relevant and go to places that make us look cool,” he says.
“I challenge them to consider if they are buying something because they really need it or if it’s because somebody else has it. The fear is that people will not accept you for who you are. Young people are not honest about their circumstances. As a result it’s difficult to be truthful. I also advise them to be courageous and speak to their parents about their goals, and involve their families in their financial decisions.”
According to 2020 statistics, 55.75% of youth between ages 18-24 are unemployed in South Africa, an issue that Tshepo believes requires urgent attention.
“Not only are young people struggling to find work, others have become despondent and have decided to quit looking for employment. As young people we have given up. We talk, protest, vote and do the best we can to make people understand our situation, but nothing has changed,” he says.
“We have young people who have good ideas but don’t have money to assist them, and those who do have money don’t have good ideas. There’s also a disconnect between skills and available jobs. Our youth are being encouraged to go to mainstream universities to study for degrees, but then find that jobs are few.,Vocational schools like FET colleges are offering to teach skilled labour for young people to become artisans, but for many these jobs are unappealing and are seen as unglamorous,” he says.
Tshepo believes there needs to be investment in young people, with those holding leadership positions being willing to pass on the baton.
“The older generation needs to consider the future and set a foundation for young people to flourish. Corruption is a sign that leaders are concerned with enriching themselves now while neglecting the needs of young South Africans. The older generation must be willing to invest in a future they are not going to be part of instead of holding onto their wealth.”
Tshepo encourages South Africans both young and old to consider the financial decisions they make today, and how each impacts the other. He encourages young people to look beyond their circumstances, set goals, save and courageously shape their future.