“Likusasa: What’s Next?” finds success over winter break

Back to Article
Back to Article

“Likusasa: What’s Next?” finds success over winter break

Elika Somani, Contributing Writer

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






In Nov. 2019, five students, Stella Ikuzwe ’20, Peresian Melisa Letayian ’20, Ny Ony Razafindrabe ’20, Nana Amoah ’21 and Precious Dlamini ’21, came together to create “Likusasa: What’s Next?” — a program to empower high school students from Siphofaneni in the Kingdom of Eswatini to succeed in higher education, vocational training and entrepreneurship.

Developed during Macathon this past fall, Razafindrabe said that her group, “wanted to find an issue that was particularly close to our hearts.” 

They found that in education and youth empowerment. 

“The fact that we’re all from different African countries played a really big role in it,” Amoah said “We all brought something different — different perspectives, to the project I think Mac actually gave us that chance for us to come together, people from different African countries.”

In the Siphofaneni region, less than 10 percent of high school graduates pursue higher education — of that, less than 50 percent graduate, and, of that, less than 25 percent find gainful employment. Likusasa’s common experience with supportive university counseling, something not everyone has access to, was a motivator for the group.

“We realized that we didn’t know whether we had resources to help us navigate the whole educational system, graduation, after-high school system and how that lack of resources is more present in rural areas,” Letayian said. “We didn’t realize how serious an issue this is.”

But once they did they had to act. The myriad of resources available at Macalester were a driver of the project. 

“Coming to Mac and seeing all of the resources that the students are given and realizing that there’s such a privilege, it makes us want to do something somewhere else,” Razafindrabe said. 

Dlamini said, “Back home when results come out it’s a scramble. Everybody is just like I don’t know what I want to study, what do you want to study, oh you want to study this, okay maybe I will study that. It is not coming from a place of ‘I’m interested in it,’ rather ‘my friend is doing it, maybe I can do it too.’”

With a third-place finish at Macathon, the group went away hopeful that it could turn its idea into something concrete. With the support of the Entrepreneurship Office, the team conducted a pilot over winter break. 

“It’s kinda funny how the project evolved because we were literally thinking about building containers and then it kinda grew from there and how we have a curriculum,” Razafindrabe said. 

In Siphofaneni, Dlamini ran a pilot program over J-Term that consisted of a one week workshop of post-high school training and information sessions to students from Hlutse High School and other volunteers. In order to determine the impact and effectiveness of the program, it was critical that the group started with a small sample size.   

“We got positive feedback,” Dlamini said. “We planned for 10 students and about 40 students came.”

One main takeaway from the pilot was that students want the program to start earlier, so students have the information it provides before they select their high school classes. With a successful pilot in place, Likusasa’s “main goal remains doing the ten-week program,” Dlamini said. 

The 10-week curriculum incorporates different aspects of post-high school training from exploring interests to planning to reach desired careers. By providing students with information on higher education, vocational training, scholarships and more, the program hopes to funnel high-school students into long-term career pathways to reduce the country’s education drop-out rate. 

The program is designed as a physical resource. When creating the program, Likusasa realized that “technology is a barrier for people in those areas, rural areas, so it has to be largely physical for [students] to have something to interact with,” Dlamini said. 

At Macalester, though, technology is mainly utilized for donations. For many students at Macalester, the lack of technology involved in post-high school decisions is jarring, yet reflective of the need for a program like Likusasa. 

The most challenging aspect Likusasa faces is time. Even with the support of the Entrepreneurship Office at Macalester, preparing and running a program while coping with Macalester’s student workload is demanding. With three graduates and the other team members seeking summer internships, a program like the Live It Fund, which funds students to implement an innovative solution to a problem, is unlikely. 

“It’s our baby. We don’t want to give it away. We are very attached to it” Letayian said.  

Likusasa is focused curating the program to have a longer-term impact by developing a website, finding resources and partnering with organizations both in Eswatini and Minnesota. 

According to Dlamini, the recent change in the required language of instruction from English to SiSwati by the government will challenge Likusasa’s mission. With little drive from teachers or students to learn the English language, yet requirements from higher education institutions to know the English language, university entrance and retention rates, particularly from students in the rural areas, may decline. 

“The [school] books are written in English. How do you expect our students to learn?” Dlamini said. 

At a time where Siphofaneni needs them, this leaves us questioning, what’s next for Likusasa?

In Nov. 2019, five students, Stella Ikuzwe ’20, Peresian Melisa Letayian ’20, Ny Ony Razafindrabe ’20, Nana Amoah ’21 and Precious Dlamini ’21, came together to create “Likusasa: What’s Next?” — a program to empower high school students from Siphofaneni in the Kingdom of Eswatini to succeed in higher education, vocational training and entrepreneurship.

Developed during Macathon this past fall, Razafindrabe said that her group, “wanted to find an issue that was particularly close to our hearts.” 

They found that in education and youth empowerment. 

“The fact that we’re all from different African countries played a really big role in it,” Amoah said “We all brought something different — different perspectives, to the project I think Mac actually gave us that chance for us to come together, people from different African countries.”

In the Siphofaneni region, less than 10 percent of high school graduates pursue higher education — of that, less than 50 percent graduate, and, of that, less than 25 percent find gainful employment. Likusasa’s common experience with supportive university counseling, something not everyone has access to, was a motivator for the group.

“We realized that we didn’t know whether we had resources to help us navigate the whole educational system, graduation, after-high school system and how that lack of resources is more present in rural areas,” Letayian said. “We didn’t realize how serious an issue this is.”

But once they did they had to act. The myriad of resources available at Macalester were a driver of the project. 

“Coming to Mac and seeing all of the resources that the students are given and realizing that there’s such a privilege, it makes us want to do something somewhere else,” Razafindrabe said. 

Dlamini said, “Back home when results come out it’s a scramble. Everybody is just like I don’t know what I want to study, what do you want to study, oh you want to study this, okay maybe I will study that. It is not coming from a place of ‘I’m interested in it,’ rather ‘my friend is doing it, maybe I can do it too.’”

With a third-place finish at Macathon, the group went away hopeful that it could turn its idea into something concrete. With the support of the Entrepreneurship Office, the team conducted a pilot over winter break. 

“It’s kinda funny how the project evolved because we were literally thinking about building containers and then it kinda grew from there and how we have a curriculum,” Razafindrabe said. 

In Siphofaneni, Dlamini ran a pilot program over J-Term that consisted of a one week workshop of post-high school training and information sessions to students from Hlutse High School and other volunteers. In order to determine the impact and effectiveness of the program, it was critical that the group started with a small sample size.   

“We got positive feedback,” Dlamini said. “We planned for 10 students and about 40 students came.”

One main takeaway from the pilot was that students want the program to start earlier, so students have the information it provides before they select their high school classes. With a successful pilot in place, Likusasa’s “main goal remains doing the ten-week program,” Dlamini said. 

The 10-week curriculum incorporates different aspects of post-high school training from exploring interests to planning to reach desired careers. By providing students with information on higher education, vocational training, scholarships and more, the program hopes to funnel high-school students into long-term career pathways to reduce the country’s education drop-out rate. 

The program is designed as a physical resource. When creating the program, Likusasa realized that “technology is a barrier for people in those areas, rural areas, so it has to be largely physical for [students] to have something to interact with,” Dlamini said. 

At Macalester, though, technology is mainly utilized for donations. For many students at Macalester, the lack of technology involved in post-high school decisions is jarring, yet reflective of the need for a program like Likusasa. 

The most challenging aspect Likusasa faces is time. Even with the support of the Entrepreneurship Office at Macalester, preparing and running a program while coping with Macalester’s student workload is demanding. With three graduates and the other team members seeking summer internships, a program like the Live It Fund, which funds students to implement an innovative solution to a problem, is unlikely. 

“It’s our baby. We don’t want to give it away. We are very attached to it” Letayian said.  

Likusasa is focused curating the program to have a longer-term impact by developing a website, finding resources and partnering with organizations both in Eswatini and Minnesota. 

According to Dlamini, the recent change in the required language of instruction from English to SiSwati by the government will challenge Likusasa’s mission. With little drive from teachers or students to learn the English language, yet requirements from higher education institutions to know the English language, university entrance and retention rates, particularly from students in the rural areas, may decline. 

“The [school] books are written in English. How do you expect our students to learn?” Dlamini said. 

At a time where Siphofaneni needs them, this leaves us questioning, what’s next for Likusasa?