Solving SA's literacy problem

2012-03-07 00:00

THE first thing that compelled me to read this book was the title. Subsequently, it was the front cover, showing a face of a young black man in front of a squatter camp — or, to be politically correct, informal settlement. My first thoughts were that he was terrorising this community, and was so feared that he could brag that nobody would kill him. But nobody will ever kill him because — pardon the cliché — he has been to hell and back, and has the scars, both emotionally and physically.

Born in 1993, Maloni’s life has been characterised by hardship, poverty, pain, disappointments and suffering. This young man from Graaff Reinet had to fend for himself to get by as he grew up rejected by his mother, living in squalor and starving most of the time. And in a trend familiar among black people, his father was absent. He spent most of his time in an orphanage, with no shoes for school, and relying on hand-me-downs for clothes.

But that was not bad compared to what came later. He moved with his mother to Cape Town, where she looked for work and shacked up with a new boyfriend. Maloni found an abandoned caravan and made it his home. He relied on friends, barely into their high teens, for food, and like many clever young men back-ed into a corner, resorted to ste-aling to buy clothes and school uniforms. Shipped back to the orphanage, he was arrested and imprisoned for allegedly raping another man, but through all the hardships and suffering, which included losing one of his best friends to murder, he still wanted to make something of himself.

His light at the end of the tunnel came when he joined the Hokisa Children’s Home, an NGO founded in 2001, which works with youth affected by HIV/Aids. There he was encouraged to continue with his education and learnt to trust people. He decided to write this book, which he co-wrote with Dr Lutz van Dijk, co-founder of Hokisa.

There is a saying that I like: “You may not be where you want to be, but be glad that you are not where you used to be”. This sums up Maloni’s life. From here on, if he chooses, the sky is the limit.

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