Scouting has put my life on track

16-year-old Mokgadi Maeko joined the 1st Riversands DSD Scout Group in 2022. The Scout Group, that serves the densely populated township of Diepsloot, is one the Scout Groups funded through a partnership between the Gauteng Department of Social Development and the Gauteng Region of SCOUTS South Africa.

To mark the International Day of the Boy Child we sat down with Mokgadi to find out how being in Scouting through the DSD partnership has impacted his life, an that of his peers and his family.

“When I was in Grade 8 my friends and I were approached to join Scouting. We didn’t know what it was all about, but I am happy that I joined as it has changed me as a person and has given me a better life. Before I joined Scouting, I was very disrespectful, not disciplined and would not do chores at home. I would look for entertainment in the wrong places, like many of my non-Scouting friends still do today. I have changed. I am a happy and better person”, he says softly.

Since joining the 1st Riversands DSD Scout Group Mokgadi has been able to embrace his adventurous spirit, while learning how to lead, how to communicate and how to live his life according to a solid value system. “I have done hikes and a swimming gala with Scouts from the Sandton District, as well as bigger Scouting events such as the Gauteng Jaborally. I really enjoyed being part of the fourth Patrol at the Jamborally”, continues Mokgadi. “I learned how to paddle board, abseil, did a whole lot of air Scouting activities and even 4 x 4! It was nice to be in a Patrol as you learn skills from your friends in the group. It’s not difficult to ask them to show you something or for you to teach someone how to do something in your Patrol. You also get to make friends from other Groups and learn about their lives and Scouting experiences.”

The Scout Patrol system is a leadership development method unique to Scouting. It empowers young people to lead a group of peers in developing practical life skills and self-confidence in a safe space of positive peer to peer learning. “I am a Patrol Leader in my Scout Troop, and this opportunity has taught me how to communicate, how to ask questions and explain things to others. I also learned how to avoid problems, how to plan and how to come up solutions for problems”, he says with a smile. “When we joined the Troop, we would do what we needed and then stop doing it again. Now we do things again to help others and not only because we have to do it for ourselves. We learn to work hard! One of my favourite activities is to tie knots. I never thought I would become a person that would be able to do things with the knots like I can now.”

1st Riversands Troop Scouter Peter Ngobeni, who also joined the Scout Movement in 2022, has observed first-hand how the DSD Scout programme has impacted Mokgadi’s life. “I don’t know where to begin to describe how different Mokgadi is now to who he was when he started. He was very shy and didn’t help out at home at all. Now, he is shining! We made him a Patrol Leader because he is a full Scout! He protects and unites his Patrol and the Troop. He makes things happen! Even at homes, he now helps with chores and can handle anything that comes his way!”

When asked what advice he has for his peers who are still engaging in unhealthy activities, his response was clear: “Join Scouting and you will see your life change. You will become a special person. I can see that I do things differently now. I dream of being a lawyer and I know if I continue with Scouting through the DSD programme, my life will stay on track.”