Our siblings’ blood is on our hands

2012-09-15 11:13

Everywhere you look, there’s evidence of the need to educate our fledgling nation

Dear product of a black school, we have our siblings’ blood on our hands.

I am always in awe when I think of how much the generation of Bantu Biko and Lillian Ngoyi sacrificed to get me to where I am today.

They didn’t want us to be to forced to have English names because our “masters” could not pronounce nor write our native names.

As Solomon Mahlangu prophesied: “Their blood nourished the trees of freedom that bear my fruits of freedom.”

Last year, in a Grade 8 English tutorial I was honoured to offer at one school in Bloemfontein, I felt the brutality of my silence.

One of the learners had scored full marks in a spelling exercise, and had the highest marks for an essay exercise.

I was very disappointed when I was told she was absent, and had been for the past three days. I called her aside the following week to find out what had happened.

Tears rolled down her cheeks. She was embarrassed to even look me in the eye.

She had missed school because she could notafford sanitary pads, and her period was too heavy for her to use a cloth.

That brilliant, aspiring medical doctor had never used a sanitary pad in her life.

A part of me died that day.

We know these are just some challenges that educators face daily. They have to be parents, psychologists, mentors and spiritual councillors to the learners and, at times, to some of the parents too.

We knew coming to school was a ticket to break the poverty and unemployment cycle in our families.

Even though our schools had no adequate infrastructure to accommodate our intellectual needs, they were still our second homes. It’s where our dreams seemed attainable.

We had educators who loved and inspired us. They fed and clothed us. Some even paid our tertiary application fees, bought our first suitcases and drove us to our universities to register.

Some sent us pocket money when our bursaries took forever to pay up. Some even bused our parents in to our graduations.

These teachers groomed us to be the doctors, engineers and scholars we are today, but we are yet to return and plough back the seeds of development – thus making their work and lives easier.

We know what it feels like to attend a school with no functioning toilets and, even worse, no libraries.

We know the pain of missing school for up to two weeks at a time because of teachers’ strikes, but we remain silent.

Our silence burnt Menziwa High School in Eastern Cape. It’s also the reason 40 schools in Northern Cape have been shut down for two months by parents.

It’s our silence that continues to humiliate our siblings in Eastern Cape who attend “classes” in more than 350 mud schools.

It’s our silence that allowed government officials and EduSolutions in Limpopo to get away with not delivering textbooks on time.

Those are our schools, they produced us.

When our nation’s parents destroy schools and, worse, prevent our nation’s siblings from attending classes, we have to intervene.

Our responsibility, as hard as it is, is to go back to our parents and engage with them on the consequences of their actions.

When learners burn a school, we ought to step up and educate our younger siblings on the consequences of such criminal acts, listen to their cries, assist where we can and help rebuild these broken communities.

Why do we remain silent when their only ticket out of poverty is being taken away from them?

We are like children whose parents sacrificed all they had to build a better life for them, and then sitshiphe (live in a town far away and never communicate with any family members, nor go home).

Let’s go home to establish and strengthen our alma mater, fundraise for quality infrastructure, establish scholarships and bursaries; and donate books, stationery and sanitary pads.

Let us give back to the schools that produced us. Let’s assist our teachers in organising scholarships and entrepreneurship seminars.

Let’s design, with our school teams, programmes aimed at developing our schools into centres of academic excellence and leadership development.

We have an opportunity to prevent our siblings from carrying the same scars of “black” education we carry silently within us.

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Koza started Inqubela Foundation to create networks of people with the goal of imparting their skills and knowledge to the youth

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