News from the Mission
First township jewellery project changing mindsets
By Moagisi Letlhaku | Staff Writer | 03 July 2012
When Fana Maseko was tasked with assisting in the establishment of the Atteridgeville Jewellery Project (AJP) in 1999, the aim was to invest the black township’s youth with jewellery design and manufacturing skills, and demystify a supposedly elite industry.
“We started marketing the course to the Atteridgeville community and also went to other townships. At first, people couldn’t link Atteridgeville to jewellery manufacturing. It seemed like something out there,” said Project Director, Fana Maseko.
AJP is the brainchild of former Wits Technikon lecturer and goldsmith Andrew Abramowitz and the Vukani Ubuntu Community Development Projects.
The project, based at Tshwane North College Campus in Atteridgeville, started to gain recognition when two students were selected in 2000 for the finals of the AngloGold Riches of Africa Jewellery Design Competition, which recognizes innovative gold jewellery design by South African designers.
“That put the project on the map and got people wanting to support it. Increased support enabled us to buy more equipment and consumables, such as copper and metals, to train students,” said Maseko.
In 2010, AJP was awarded a grant of US$13,000 through the U.S. Ambassador’s Self Help Program. “We are very grateful for this funding which we used to purchase hand tools and equipment for the workshop,” he said.
The program enjoys a high job-placement rate and through the development of small medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) in the jewellery industry, AJP has produced five black-owned jewellery businesses.
“Since we started we’ve had approximately 100 students graduate and 80-85% of them find jobs in the industry through our associations with industry and their talent,” said Maseko. AJP has formed a partnership with the Mining Qualifications Authority (MQA), the education training authority for the mining and minerals sector. At the end of an 18-month training program, registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training, students receive a certificate in jewellery manufacturing in the production environment from the MQA, as well as a one from AJP. For another six months, they can study the production line and another year of computer-aided design and manufacturing (CAD).
AJP has employed some of the graduates as junior trainers. One such person is Koketso Mohlala, 22, who through her training has become a savvy CAD professional and now teaches design. She started her own company called Ditsala Designs and Creations and has had some of her jewellery sold at by major retailing group Edcon, at its Edgars stores.
“I can do anything on CAD all thanks to AJP, for believing in me. I would like to go back to school to study project management to grow my business,” said Mohlala.
Unearthing talent and sustainability
Maseko said the project not only produces designers, but cultivates various skills required by the industry. “We identify the strengths of the students and there are those who are good manufacturers, or good sellers, polishers, stone setters, and so on.” AJP has a class of 20 deaf students which are taught by facilitator, Phillemon Masilo. They are also currently piloting a programme for students of the Zodwa Special School for the Mentally Handicapped.
“We’re working on developing a programme where a trainer will go and teach chain-making twice a week and from there they’ll pick students who can be developed further. We want to start by teaching them in their own environment, at their own pace,” explained Maseko.
Maseko is passionate about the prospects for this new programme and the opportunity to show that the students are capable of great things if given a chance. Although income generation is still less than 10% of funds that come into AJP each year, Maseko said they have started to move towards growing this percentage to sustain the project, including producing corporate gifts for companies.
“The African Cup of Nations (AFCON) has approached us to come up with designs for the 2013 tournament which our trainer Koketso is currently working on.”