By Simamkele Dlakavu
We all know apartheid history too well but unfortunately it persists in the present. As Zwelinzima Vavi said: “Apartheid will not end and black people will not have real freedom until free and high quality education becomes a reality.”
I am a product of township education like most black youth in SA. I am now at the University of the Witwatersrand studying my honours in political studies. And I am a social activist with a particular interest in rural and township youth as well as young black women. I am where I am today because a University of Cape Town recruitment officer — who was invited by the “model C” schools in my hometown of Queenstown — decided to also address students from township schools because these were the students who needed the information the most.
He told us we could go to the best universities in Africa and that our finances would be taken care of if we applied for bursaries and to a government scheme called the National Student Financial Aid Scheme. He taught us the value of hard work, dreaming and breaking the mindset of limitation entrenched in us. Needless to say I took those lessons to heart and am where I am today because of that workshop.
In that class that day, there were less than 40 students from less than five township schools in Queenstown. I wish more of my peers would have had the opportunity to be a part of that workshop. What about the students in the deepest of rural areas, what about them? Do they get the opportunity to hear this information?
The conditions of the schools in the rural parts of the Eastern Cape are shocking (even for me). There are many structural issues that inhibit learners in these schools from succeeding. Many of the schools have no libraries or computer laboratories (these are luxuries, by the way, for our schools). What is even more shocking is that these learners don’t even have the basics to pass. Some schools don’t have teachers for subjects such as maths, accounting and English. They don’t have enough textbooks. Chairs and desks lie broken. This does very little to motivate the learners and push them to realise their potential.
On a visit to one of these schools a learner asked me: “How am I supposed to dream or even pass when we don’t have a teacher?” I was silent for a while because this was true. Luckily another learner stood up and said we need to pay a teacher from one of the schools to teach us on weekend. Apparently this teacher had offered to teach them on weekends at a price. This made be happy and angry. Happy that these learners were finding ways to learn even though the system was failing them, angry because the system is allowing learners to resort to this when most come from poverty-stricken homes.
These learners and others like them want to be more than their backgrounds, they want to help take their families out of poverty. THEY HAVE DREAMS. Most importantly, they are willing to work to fulfil their dreams and are not looking for hand-outs. ALL they need are the basics to learn! Can they have the opportunity PLEASE!
Simamkele Dlakavu is a politics honours student at the University of the Witwatersrand. She is a One Young World ambassador, a British Council Global Change-maker, a YOWLI fellow and recently recognised by Moremi Initiative MILEAD Fellowship as one of 28 “Africa’s Most Outstanding Emerging Women Leaders” for 2013. She is the founder of Sakha Ulutsha Lwethu and an external liaison for the Young Economists for Africa.