Epic Young Men of Honour, run by Epic Youth Matters, an NGO in Durban that focuses on helping the youth with life skills.
Durban - With bouts of laughter, a group of smiling boys enters the classroom at Overport Secondary School.

It’s their lunch break, but instead of spending it milling about the school grounds, they’ve gathered in a classroom for special lessons to help them develop into gentlemen.

After settling in, they are taken through the lesson of the day, based on why there are rules and instructions, and the need to follow them.

They are part of a programme, Epic Young Men of Honour, run by Epic Youth Matters, an NGO in Durban that focuses on helping the youth with life skills.

Operating quietly in Durban for the past few years, the organisation aims to work in more schools in the greater Durban area, where they say the need is growing for attention and care of young people.

One of their facilitators of the programme, Brown Msomi, said he was a testament to the programme.

When he started high school in Chatsworth in 2007, he was at a difficult time in his life.

“I was trying to deal with struggles as a young man. I was raised by a single parent, there was no father figure.

"Whatever advice I thought I needed, I got from other students and that’s dangerous because there was no way of telling whether the information you’re being given is correct or not,” said Brown.

At school, he heard about the Epic Youth programme and decided to join it.

“I was very interested in learning about values and respect and how to respectfully interact with the opposite sex. I saw the need to become someone more than I was,” he said.

After completing matric, studying and then working as a mechanical engineer with a good salary, Msomi said he felt something was lacking in his life.

“I felt I needed to give back and help guide young kids, so I left my job and came back to Epic to do my part,” he said.

Msomi guides the class through rules and instructions and how they are linked to values.

Michelle Chetty, of Epic Youth Matters, said the Young Men of Honour programme rose out of the Young Women of Honour programme.

“In the many years we have been working with the youth, many girls came to me who have been raped or abused. I thought: 'We can help them heal, we can teach them entrepreneurial skills to be independent, but we can’t prevent these things from happening to them.'

“I then decided to start the Young Men of Honour programme, because we have so much focus on women, that maybe our young men are being sidelined and not equipped with the skills needed to be upstanding men in our communities.

"We need to help guide them on this path, so that there is respect between men and women and we don’t see cases of abuse and violence any more,” she said.

Overport's principal, Dr Shabier Omar, said: “We’re an under-resourced school and we welcome any extracurricular activity that benefits the pupils.

“We can see this is something the pupils thoroughly enjoy and attend out of their own will; you can see how eager they are to learn more and grow as individuals.”

Independent On Saturday