An ex-convict from Langa has created a sustainable education service to transform the informal settlement into a tech-hub filled with opportunity for the disadvantaged and unemployed youth.

Sihle Tshabalala was convicted at the age of 19 for armed robbery and cash in transit heists. Tshabalala was a bright and diligent student during his schooling years and finished high school at a young age leaving him vulnerable to the world of crime; at the age of 18 he became involved in criminal activity.

Tshabalala was convicted and sentenced to 13 years imprisonment at Brandvlei Correctional Centre after being caught during an armed robbery at a Sea Point bottle store. During his time in prison, Tshabalala, along with other inmates, founded the Non-Profit Organisation known as Group of Hope.

The organisation focuses on providing educational training for inmates.

Whilst behind bars, Tshabalala taught English and mathematics to other inmates. “A couple of months in, I realised the reason inmates behave the way they do is because no one has taught, inspired or motivated them to look to a different future. You are told: ‘You will never be that, you will never do that.’ But being from a disadvantaged background doesn’t determine your end destination. You have the grandest weapon called choice,” Tshabalala told News24.

Being released after seven years of the 13 year sentence, Tshabalala wanted to be more and do more. From the humble beginnings of using free online resources to learn how to code in under 6 weeks to the formation of Quirky 30, a non-profit organisation.  He was willing to go the extra mile to find his passion and purpose in life.

“Every morning I would travel to the Cape Town CBD and visit the library to plug in at the free Wi-Fi zone and download free material, which I would study at home” he said.

Quirky 30 aims to provide free one year training courses in coding, design, the Cloud and entrepreneurship. The organisation wants to empower those who did not complete high school, as well as impoverished youth.


The initiative has taken the community by storm as it educates children from a young age and has hosted an array of speakers and education forefronts to motivate the students. Tshabalala has put Quirky30 at the forefront for change in the township community and has received international recognition as he heads to the upcoming  Viva My Technology Conference in Paris.

Tshabalala plans to put the township community on the map as a tech-hub as he inspires children to code.

This ex-convict wants to give the people hope – that against the odds we can achieve anything and education is the key. “We must start thinking about the future. If we want to create inclusive economy, our approach must be different.” Tshabalala said.

Picture: Supplied (Quirky 30)

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