PAYLP 2021 Mini-Grant Spotlight: The “Voninga” Project


The following post was written by Dário Macucule an Adult Mentor for the U.S. Department of State’s Pan Africa Leadership Program (PAYLP) implemented by Meridian. Macucle is from Mozambique.

My name is Dário Macucule, and I am a teacher at Manhiça Secondary School, located in a village in southern Mozambique. This past March, I implemented The “Voninga” Project with the support of a PAYLP Alumni Mini-Grant to guide graduating high school students as they chart their futures. The word Voninga comes from Changanga (or Shangaan/ Tsonga), a native language is spoken in the south of Mozambique, and means “enlighten.” 

From wishing for role models…

When I was a student, I was part of the first cohort to attend the high school located in my village: before that year, young people had to leave the village for the city to complete high school. Because we were the first, we didn’t have anyone who could guide us on how to choose our courses or even how to look for technical schools or universities where we could continue our studies. I wanted to study architecture at the time, but the information was non-existent. There were no architects in the village, and there was still limited internet use for a few people. Due to poor preparation, I did not pass the entrance exams for architecture studies.

…to becoming one myself!

I went one year without studying, not knowing what to do until I enrolled in the Teacher Training Institute that existed locally the following year. It was there that I started my journey as a teacher. In 2020, I was nominated to work at the same high school I attended many years prior. To my surprise, after so long, the school still had no support mechanism for its graduating students. I knew I had to do something, so I contacted some friends who were also former students at the school, and we would informally guide students together in our free time. After participating in PAYLP last year, however, I felt I had the necessary resources in terms of knowledge and ideas to better combat this situation. As a result of these factors, I decided to implement The “Voninga” Project with my friends.

Implementing The “Voninga” Project 

The key feature of The “Voninga” Project was a workshop for high school seniors, with former students from that same school as speakers to act as role models in their academic and professional careers. The project sought to motivate students in two key areas. First, we wanted to encourage students to continue with and advance their studies. Secondly, we hoped to help them understand the bigger picture about how the community works and the connection between their choices and the community dynamics. In this these ways, we worked to boost their interest in being part of the solution for local community challenges. We wanted to show students that by making good choices for their future and pursuing a concrete plan, they could achieve the ultimate goal of education that should provide a better living for the educated individual and the community.

The PAYLP Impact

Being a PAYLP alumnus is a great honor, but above all, it is a great responsibility. It is an honor because I know that I belong to an incredible family where I can find support, be heard, and offer my time to increase social welfare. It is a responsibility because I know that I must view any constraint that I identify in my community as an opportunity to contribute to my learning by finding solutions to that situation. Being a PAYLP alumnus is fulfilling and challenging, making my life more enjoyable. I hope to continue with The “Voninga” Project and continue collaborating with other alumni and the Meridian team.

The PAYLP team thanks Dário for his excellent work and commitment to bettering his community and supporting youth leaders! If you are interested in connecting with Dário, you can find him on social media platforms @dario.macucule.