Rudo Institute Empowers Young People With Entrepreneurial Skills

Author: Themba Kriger
Photos: Rudo Institute & Sibusiso Ncwana

The Daveyton-based educational institution was founded by Sarah Madingwana and Kwandile Sikhosana

Daveyton, a township in Benoni, is the home to the Rudo Institute, an educational institution founded by Sarah Madingwana and Kwandile Sikhosana. The institute’s goal is to bridge the gap that exists in townships due to a lack of higher education institutions in the township and others like it.

With both Sarah and Kwandile having backgrounds in social entrepreneurship, along with Kwandile’s goal of becoming president of the country in the future, the foundations for the Rudo Institute were laid when the two met in 2014 and decided to tackle the narrative that black people don’t read.

They realized that the issue was a lack of access to books. “Books are expensive, people would rather secure a meal than buy a book for R250,” explains Sarah. This realization led them to found the Daveyton Book Club as a platform for young people to have interactive dialogues, discuss their challenges and issues, and try to find solutions. The book club also hosted book drives where they sold books for as little as R5 and offered book exchanges.

In 2019 the duo had reached the ceiling of what could be achieved with the Daveyton Book Club. “The name was very limiting and the organization wasn’t sustainable. So we had to sit down and think about how we can grow,” Sarah notes.

What sparked the idea for the Rudo Institute was Kwandile’s involvement in an initiative to establish a university in the city of Ekurhuleni. While some progress had been made towards this goal, including a feasibility study and tabling it with the Ministry of Higher Education and Training, due to the number of collaborators the project’s timeline was too drawn out for him to be involved without additional funding.

To address the findings of this initiative more rapidly, Sarah and Kwandile decided to found the Rudo Institute. It would empower high school graduates with access to higher education while also stimulating the local economy thanks to student spending.

With the goal of opening satellites in townships across the country, apart from its base in Daveyton, the institute also operates on a per-project basis on initiatives around the country. Its primary focus is entrepreneurship but also incorporates branding, entrepreneurial law, design thinking, ideation, project management, project planning, and HR into its courses.

Alongside its entrepreneurship course, the institute also offers ICT courses to teach students computer literacy, an ideation program, and a new venture creation course. Of these their ICT program is accredited by the MICT SETA and the new venture creation course by ServiceSETA.

Apart from educational programs, the institute also serves as a hub that allows anyone to come and rent a desk and laptop with WiFi access by the hour or rent out the space for events. They also tutor children from disadvantaged communities and offer their resources to matric students for free.

Finally, the institute also operates as an internet cafe, with freshly brewed coffee always at the ready. Thanks to Ikeja, this connection is fast and stable, allowing the institute to reliably run its internet cafe, co-working space, and online courses without worrying about service disruptions or high data bills.

Students don’t have to pay for the institute’s courses, instead, each course is funded by donors who decide the criteria students have to meet to qualify, although generally, the focus is on young people.

The biggest challenge the institute faces is funding as social entrepreneurship has a much slower return on investment than other ventures. This makes it tough to get access to venture capital. Funding is especially necessary for the Rudo Institute because it is involved in the highly-regulated education sector which means gaining accreditation is extremely expensive.

Still, in the 3 years since launching, the Rudo Institute has launched several high-impact projects. These include training youth from around Southern Africa in entrepreneurship in partnership with the African Union, training young people in Daveyton as part of a project with the Cyril Rhamaphosa Foundation, and establishing 14 libraries and planting 120 fruit trees at schools.

Looking toward the future, Sarah and Kwandile have several goals for the institute. The goal for the satellite program is to collaborate with people in different regions and train them so that they can run franchises in their areas to reach more people and have a greater impact. 

Apart from empowering the people of Daveyton and beyond, the biggest goal is to build the actual university as envisioned in the initial initiative. Having already partnered with an architectural company and on the lookout for the right piece of land, inroads towards this goal have already been made. 

As it enters its third year of operation, the Rudo Institute is well on the way to achieving its primary goal of empowering the underserved communities of Erkhuleni and beyond. Thanks to their initiative, more young people will have the entrepreneurial training they need to start their own businesses or thrive in a corporate environment, helping to develop their communities.


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