All month long SME South Africa will highlight young entrepreneurs, innovators and influencers who are shaping the future, as part of our Youth Month 2017 coverage. Follow #YouthAmplified on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.
He has taken on Kilimanjaro and Mount Elbrus in Russia – the highest peak in Europe, and recently returned from Denali in Alaska – the highest peak in North America. Now he’s got his sights on conquering both the North and South Poles.
For his efforts, Sitole was nominated as ‘One of Nine Bravest Men We Know’ by Men’s Health magazine alongside endurance swimmer, Lewis Pugh, the only person to have completed an endurance swim in every ocean of the world as well as Alex Harris, arguably South Africa’s most experienced and respected adventurer whose expeditions include the seven summits and the jungles of Borneo to the plains of Tibet, the North Pole and deep into Antarctica.
Sitole has also been nominated for South Africa’s “Heart Of Gold Bravest Men We Know” awards by Klipdrift and Intrepid Explorer magazine and won an honourary award for adventure at the City of Cape Town’s Khayelitsha Awards.
Believing In The Impossible
Sitole now dedicates his time to helping young people to overcome their own seemingly insurmountable challenges, many who like himself, come from the country’s toughest townships.
Sitole grew up in the township of Greenpoint in Cape Town, it was in his teens that his life changed. At the age of 16, he sailed across the globe as one of the first Africans to attend school onboard the SV Concordia sailing vessel. The vessel sails from Nova Scotia to various parts of the world including Cape Town, Namibia, St Helena, Ascension Island, Fernando Island, Brazil, Trinidad, Tobago, Bermuda and London.
Sitole was chosen to represent Africa in the international Pangaea Mike Horn young explorers camp in Switzerland Chateau o doex, where he met world-famous explorer Mike Horn, who has played a big role in Sitole’s growing philanthropy and exploration.
“When you come from the township you came from a very distant, detached reality. Whatever we see on the TV about America and all these stuff is very detached from reality that we come from.”
“A lot of our young people have lost the capacity to dream. One of the first steps to success is to believe, because you can never do anything that you don’t believe in.”
To put this to action, Sitole launched the Monde Sitole Educational Strategies Foundation. The foundation focuses exclusively on young people in townships and some of the most remote schools in the country.
The foundation’s aim is to produce “high-altitude sportsmen, future Olympians and compassionate beings”, and on a practical level, to help keep learners in school, reduce school dropouts and repetitions as well as to instill a sense of hope.
“I want to develop a culture of achievement and excellence by promoting an impactful, meaningful, comprehensive, holistic, world-class education and training system that is engaging and integrated,” says Sitole adding that education is not just about getting a job.
The foundation hopes to achieve this through a number of initiatives that seek to expose these youths to new experiences and also by equipping them with essential skills.
One of his initiatives, the Khayelitsha Electronic School, which he launched together with Mxit co-founder Gavin Marshall, takes troubled teens and teaches them to code, with the hope of them developing apps to use technology to solve some of the challenges in their own communities.
“So essentially what we want to do is for them to create their own solutions for their certain problems. We have that every Saturday,” he says.
The foundation also hosts The Desert Rose Adventure Club which aims to expose youngsters from Khayelitsha who are involved in gangsterism and criminal activity to outdoor activities like mountain and rock climbing.
Because of his activism and passion for improving learning in township schools, he’s now also one of A World at School’s network of Global Youth Ambassadors, an organisation that tackles grassroots education in 85 countries.
As he has proven in his own life, Sitole is driven by his belief that it’s possible to help young people rewrite their destinies.
“The greatest singers, the greatest lyricists, the greatest poets are somewhere in a shack, getting in trouble. So my idea is exposing them and facilitating that negative spirit into something more positive,” he says.