Dene Botha founded Pride Factor in 2014 as a life-skills academy to combat unemployment and poverty. Through it, he wants to inspire young people to live their ultimate lives not only in South Africa but also in the rest of the world.
Its vision is to encourage youth to widen their perspectives on life, and challenge what they think they know.
Pride Factor has collaborated with prominent brands and personalities such as Kwesta, Minnie Dlamini, Danny K, Ferah Fortune, Vodacom and others. This pursuit of its philanthropic goals propelled Botha to a place on Avance Media’s 100 Most Influential Young South Africans list in 2019.
However, while he appreciates the acknowledgement, Botha downplays the personal accolade and shares the credit.
“It hasn’t changed the world that we live in very much but it’s nice to get a little bit of recognition after running this kind of stuff for six years and having worked with a lot of people,” he says.
Pride Factor is collaborative
This shows Botha’s humility and emphasis on cooperation. He recognises that although Pride Factor’s strategies to address societal inequalities are ethically sound, they need collaboration if they are to succeed.
“Even though we’re certainly trying, there’s no way we could do what we do without the partnership and collaboration of our supporters,” he says.
Another of Pride Factor’s collaborators is the Department of Basic Education.
Botha is wary of the devastating effect the COVID-19 pandemic could have on the academic year but does not blame the department for the school closure saga.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily just the Department of Basic Education’s responsibility and ability to make the calls, [but] I don’t think the whole thing has been handled very well at all,” he says.
“I don’t think it would have been easy to forecast what was going to happen so now that we’re four or five months in, to look back and point fingers is actually very easy.”
Effect of pandemic on students
He is mainly sympathetic towards the effect the pandemic has on students.
“These young guys are concerned about their future. They are concerned about whether they’re going to be able to study, and whether there are going to be any jobs left [after the pandemic].”
The unreliable supply of electricity as well as access to data both add to these concerns.
“If you can do anything at the moment to earn some money or learn some new skills, that’s where you’re going to benefit.”
He encourages youngsters to use their extra time to continue to better themselves and not to wait until the end of lockdown.
“If you’re sitting around, just waiting for time to go past idly, that’s an absolute waste of time.
“If you can do anything at the moment to earn some money or learn some new skills, that’s where you’re going to benefit,” he advises.
Digital workshops, online courses
Pride Factor offers its students online digital workshops where they can also earn extra money through affiliate marketing, for instance.
It also tries to give students courses they actually want. The academy does this through surveys and questionnaires.
“What we’re finding in our surveys and our research with these young people … is that everyone is open to extra science, extra maths [and] extra history. But a lot of these people want global citizen skills; they want worldly skills,” Botha explains.
One of the interesting courses on offer at the Pride Factor Academy is Emotional Intelligence which Botha says “looks at the foundation of a young person’s mindset”.
“We equate it to a tree. We look at the roots which are your foundations, we look at the trunk which is your stability, your knowingness [and] your self-belief.
“Then we look at the branches which are your opportunities and routes which you can [take], then we look at the leaves which will fall off and change during the seasons.”
Pride Factor has done its fair share of adapting this year, with its new Online Academy rolled out a couple of months early in April as well as its adaption in the United Kingdom.
“We were planning to be back there two or three times this year but we have adapted everything online and we launch our first digital workshop in the UK in two weeks,” he says.
“The average adult nowadays will change their career four or five times so at one stage you are going to try something and fail, it depends how you react to that failure.”
‘Edu-tainment’ at Pride Factor
Pride Factor wants to make education enjoyable through what Botha calls “edu-tainment”. This rejects the rigid conventions with which some schools approach teaching.
“I think our major difference from a lot of the other tertiary institutions is the seriousness of everything … our workshops are interactive.
“We are getting it across in a nice, informal, comfortable kind of setting as opposed to that teacher-classroom set-up,” he reasons.
Botha encourages people to get involved with Pride Factor through its website to see what the academy has in store for Woman’s Month and Entrepreneurs Day on 21 August.
The academy is planning an event with another of its collaborative partners, Facebook.
“It’s a three-session event on how to use all the Facebook tools and how to make money from them,” he says.
“Nothing in life should be so serious that it is no longer enjoyable.”
Botha is encouraged by people’s testimonials about their Pride Factor experiences.
One of his mantras is that “nothing in life should be so serious that it is no longer enjoyable”.
There have been difficulties however.
“The economy collapsing has been a major, major difficult lesson to learn because it could happen again and we’ve got to be prepared.”
Botha credits nature and his family for his inspiration.
“My father and my fiancée are very inspirational people and they both work with me on Pride Factor. I get all the credit but it’s not just me, I’m just the front guy.”
Then, when he is not trying to change the world one kid at a time, Botha is also a nature-loving surfer and braai master.