1. Background to this project
The National Eisteddfod Academy (NEA) is a registered Non Profit Company that kindles youth development through participation in the performing arts on a multi-cultural level in schools and communities in various provinces. In campaigning for the importance of the arts in education the NEA has since 1997 emphasized the importance of participation in the arts in the development of human potential and building bridges between communities. Since 1997, more than 450,000 youths were involved in the various activities of the NEA.
The NEA has established and developed the traditional eisteddfod into a no limitations programme that targets the youth in various communities, providing them with opportunities to participate, grow, gain experience and showcase their talents. This programme comprises of various interlinked projects, including
- Opportunities to perform at an annual Eisteddfod where the youth can participate and develop in the various arts disciplines.
- Support to rural and township schools in particular, where teachers do not always have the necessary specialized skills to support the development of learners in the arts.
- Opportunities to showcase their talent at the NEA Young Performer Showcase events (concerts) in various regions where top achievers, as identified during the annual Eisteddfod, can perform.
- The National Eisteddfod Academy Young Performer Awards Competition that provides a higher level prestigious platform for top achievers in all regions to participate and compete.
All the eisteddfod activities as presented by the NEA are rooted in the basic human desire for esteem and recognition. By combining the magic of the arts and this basic need, the NEA has developed the eisteddfod concept over the past 16 years into a powerful tool that supports the personal growth of participants. The NEA program includes Music (classical and contemporary), Dance, Drama and Visual Arts, and also provides for learners with different abilities (e.g. the Deaf and Hard of hearing, learning disabled, blind and partially sighted, physically and mentally handicapped).
With the support of funding received from the NLDTF, NAC, and others, many learners from underprivileged communities were afforded opportunities to grow and participate in this process. As a result of these activities the participation of learners from these communities has increased significantly over recent years (e.g. 30% increase in 2012), bringing peoples from different communities together, building bridges between communities and contributing towards Nation building.
In simple terms an eisteddfod  can be described as a number of music, dance, or drama “shows” for which anyone may enrol and where individual participants or groups are provided with feedback on their performances by experienced adjudicators in the relevant disciplines. The “rating” of the candidate is then expressed in different “levels” of awards (diploma, gold, silver, bronze, etc.), which indicates the candidate’s progress in terms of his own knowledge, skills and understanding relevant to the particular genre.
It is not only the very talented performer that would derive value from this program. Even the so-called “mediocre” or “untalented” performer who is often not exposed to opportunities of this nature, will in particular benefit from participating in this process due to the impact of arts activities on personal development and growth. An important consideration in any project that eventually seeks to develop interest in the arts, is that this process should start at a young age. Someone that grew up without any interaction or exposure to this is very unlikely to value and appreciate arts in adulthood.
With this in mind, this eisteddfod process operates on two levels:
- For the talented learner (who might follow a career in the arts) it provides an opportunity for expression and growth in a selected art form.
- For the majority of participants (who might not pursue a career in the arts), the eisteddfod process itself builds self-confidence, assertiveness and the courage to take a stand in this world.
The annual Eisteddfod, Young Performers Showcase and NEA Young Performer Awards Competition provide platforms which otherwise would be absent in most communities. These events bring culture to the doorsteps in various communities where they provide opportunities for young performers in the various art forms to participate, grow, gain experience and showcase their talents.
2. ORGANISATIONAL OVERVIEW AND PROFILE
2.1 Historical background
The National Eisteddfod Academy (NEA) developed out of the Randburg Eisteddfod, a local initiative that was founded in 1994 with the purpose of addressing the increasing cost of participating in similar activities outside the region. About 2000 entries, involving 6200 participants were received during this first year. Expansion to other regions (Tembisa and Soweto) resulted in a rapid increase in numbers (4615 entries in 1995). Right from the start a very low entry fee was charged and the remains of the operating cost was covered by means of trophy sponsorships.
This growth resulted in a decision to establish a national body to coordinate the expansion into other regions and subsequently the National Eisteddfod Academy (NEA) was established as a non-profit (Section 21) company in 1997 with Minister Fraser-Moleketi as National Patron. The launch of the Di Konokono Festival concept, with Mama Albertina Sisulu as patron in May 2001, was a further attempt to bring culture closer to the doorsteps of all our people. This resulted in a 52% growth in the number of participants in the period 2001 – 2004 (from 13,035 to 19,765) – it is important to note about 60% of these entries had to be sponsored.
The impact of the rapid expansion of the organization on the human resources and systems of the organization was tremendous. Over and above the lack of funding to support the existing operations, more staff was needed to cope with the increasing workload. It was clear that the NEA could not continue operations without drastic changes. It was subsequently decided to restructure operations into two components, i.e. a sustainable Business leg (where participants pay for what they get) and a developmental Social Investment leg (where support is provided to the less fortunate in all communities), but only when the necessary funding was available.
This approach had a significant impact on the overall fee structure of the eisteddfod and resulted in a decrease in the number of entries. However, it created a clear structure with clearly defined and new opportunities for sponsors to make a quantifiable and verifiable difference in the lives of children. Needless to say, the NEA survived those difficult days and managed to continue operations until 2008 when similar circumstances resulted in similar measures to keep the organization buoyant. It then became clear that parents were prepared to pay a much higher fee because they actually wanted the service the NEA was providing. NEA eisteddfod had become a powerful tool that supports the personal growth of participants by combining the magic of the arts and the human desire to be of significance. This power was the reason why parents and teachers were prepared to spend hours in preparing learners for participating in the eisteddfod, rushing from one venue to another, sometimes listening to countless presentations of the same poem and yet do it again next year!
A R3.4 million grant received from the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund for the period 2010 – 2012 brought stability and the opportunity to provide opportunities to learners in less-serviced communities.
3.2 Achievements and awards
The National Eisteddfod Academy
- has been recognised by UNESCO as one of the Cooperating Organizations in terms of the Constitution of the South African National Commission for UNESCO. The Di Konokono Festival has been endorsed as one of the programmes of the Culture Sector at the Second Post Conference Meeting of the South African National Commission for UNESCO in 2003.
- concluded a Constructive Partnership Agreement with the Gauteng Department of Education. Other provinces also indicated an interest in similar agreements with the NEA in order to promote arts and culture.
- has been appointed by the MEC for Education as a member of the Gauteng Education and Training Council, an advisory body to the MEC.
- was the winner of a Deaf Awareness Award in the category Corporate and Organizations, presented by the Johannesburg Rotary Club.
- The Rand Water sponsorship of the Di Konokono Festival 2001 was one of the finalists in the annual BASA / Business Day Awards.
- Gensec’s support of the Randburg branch of the Di Konokono Festival 2003 was the winner in the category Sponsorship in Kind in the BASA / Business Day Awards for 2003.
- was accepted as member of the Proudly South African Campaign.
- The mentor of the CEO won the annual BASA / Business Day Mentorship Award for her support to the NEA in 2011.
A major achievement of the NEA was to develop a business model that could be sustained in the absence of any sponsorship as was the case in 2004. The major challenge is that in the absence of the necessary sponsorship, it is not possible to provide youths from disadvantaged communities with opportunities to participate in this powerful developmental programme.
 This desire is one of the basic needs as described by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation”. Since then this theory has been generally accepted by behavioural psychologists to describe the way in which human beings behave.
 A traditional Welsh festival at which competitions are held for performers and composers of music and poetry (Encarta).