The ANC elective conference has created an economic hub at Nasrec and the standout stall is a coffee shop called Huis Van Cofifi completely manned by students in school uniform, as the baristas. 

The students have been taught to brew premium coffee delights such as Sowetocana (a play on Americano), Sowetoccino (modelled on the cappuccino), as well as cafe mocha, espresso tonic and dirty chai. 

The founder of Huis Van Cofifi, 33-year-old Sibusiso Sibeko, said he opened the coffee shop with the aim of empowering the youth in his township of Soweto. 

“I got into coffee and it changed my outlook. I too trained as a barista and I had a lot of interactions with different professionals behind the bar and I was really intrigued so I thought I could use the medium of coffee to transport kids into different professions but at the same time empower them with the skill. It was a sobriety movement as well as an empowerment movement,” Sibeko told the Mail & Guardian.

The programme is in partnership with Emshukantambo Secondary School where students from grades 10-12 are trained to be baristas. 

“The programme came because the environment that I grew up in had a lot of hostility in terms of social ills such as drug use and the kids are exposed to that kind of thing,” Sibeko said. 

Nompumelelo Nxumalo, a 17-year-old learner and barista, said the programme had helped her greatly because “the only thing I was exposed to in my environment was teenage pregnancy but I actually got to see that there is life outside of that”.

Nxumalo wants to pursue a career in medicine and is studying towards that, but also confesses to a love for coffee.

“I will definitely have a small business on the side to empower the youth because I’m so excited about this opportunity and I want to upskill and empower others,” she said.

Nxumalo said the students were at the ANC conference to highlight what they did and hopefully also get funding for their school, which is extending its library.

To 15-year-old Boitumelo Eland, the programme is an impactful alternative to “being in  the street”. 

The barista lessons run through lunch and interested students “sacrifice” their break time to learn a skill they can take with them after school. 

“It is not an after school programme, after school we focus on school work. We are all top achievers, by the way,” Nxumalo said. “The training is not limited to being a barista; we also have customer relations training and the barista academy training.”

The programme currently has 30 students, but only four of them are serving at the ANC elective conference, where they made R1 700 on the first day, according to Sibeko.

For a barista academy based in Soweto the name Huis Van Cofifi is somewhat unusual.

“The name is always a conversation starter and it was basically an embracement of languages. So, if you know Kofifi, it was a movement in Sophiatown in the 70s that embraced culture and style during a difficult time in South Africa,” Sibeko said.

“So, we said this is very profound and it could actually tell a story as we were going through the Covid-19 pandemic and there was a lot going on but we speak to positivity and courage and we encourage the youth to stand up and come together and collaborate over a cup of coffee.”

The post Local barista academy skills the youth of Soweto appeared first on The Mail & Guardian.

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