JABULANI NCUBUKA from Bethlehem was recently honoured for the work he does among under-privileged children. He is the only Free Stater who received the South African Inyathelo Award for Youth Development for 2014.
Playing chess for the past 30 years, Ncubuka has been giving chess lessons to under-privileged children for the past 15 years. At the moment he has 156 players, including school children and their parents.
The awards ceremony took place at the Zip Zap Circus Dome in Cape Town on 6 November.
He was one of 12 extraordinary individuals that were honoured at the prestigious annual Inyathelo Philanthropy Awards, including a couple of friends who set up an organisation to support refugees and asylum seekers, the founder of the Spread the Luv Movement and Jack Ginsberg, a passionate supporter of South African contemporary art. The event was initiated by Inyathelo eight years ago to acknowledge, celebrate and honour those whose personal giving has contributed towards sustainable social change in the country.
Ncubuka started the chess development initiative in the belief that the game could help unlock the latent potential of South Africa's disadvantaged children. It is believed that playing chess can assist people in better tackling the logic-based problems found in Mathematics and Science, as well as improve concentration and strategic thinking.
As the project's volunteer director, Ncubuka trains the trainers and teachers who run the programme in schools in Mpumalanga, the Free State and Limpopo. He equips them with the tools, manuals, workbooks and skills to enable them to teach chess in a fun, creative and effective way.
Besides personally funding some of the running costs of the project, Ncubuka also organises funding for local chess players to take part in national and international competitions, including the Commonwealth and South Africa Open Chess Championships.
In 1984, when Ncubuka was 15 years old, he was selected as member of the Free State schools' chess team, the only black pupil at that time. At 17 he had the opportunity to play chess in Israel — a boy from Bethlehem in the Free State visiting the Betlehem in Israel. When he came back he bought a chess set and started teaching whoever wanted to learn. Speaking to Ncubuka, he is humbled by the award and thanks the Lord for the opportunities he has been given in life.