When this year started, something changed in me. I was no longer 25 years old- the glamorous magic number I’d dreamed of my whole life. Suddenly I was entering my late 20s. Cue shock and horror...and a lot of reflection.
My reflection took me to my roots, a sprawling countryside village in rural Transkei. Lower Ngqwarha. I look back at memories of sunshine, fresh air, happy sounds of laughter as we played outside, faces glowing with hope and dreams of the future.
As happy as I was, I always knew that my destiny was in the bright lights of the big city, I looked around me and knew that this was not what my future held. I wanted glamour, prestige, success and I certainly wasn’t going to get it where I was.
Fast forward a decade and some change and sure enough, my dreams had panned out. I lived in beautiful Cape Town, tertiary qualification, chasing a second one, good job that I love, lived in a pretty decent neighbourhood. And I was still dreaming. Of more. Of better.
Like anyone who lives far from home, I make a point of going back for Christmas, and each time I’m overwhelmed by the prevailing sense of despair, of hopelessness, of lack of education and ambition that hits you like a wave when you get home.
The poverty and empty dreams I see brings me to ask the questions?
· What has happened to this place?
· Why is nobody else seemingly bothered by this state of affairs?
· Where are the role-models? Why isn’t anybody helping?
...Then I think- “oh, wait...but that’s me.”
In my dreams of grandeur, I forgot about everybody else in my pursuit of bling in the big city. I forgot that not everybody had the same opportunities I did. Not everybody thinks the same way or has the same ambitions.
I-and my peers who have made the exodus from the rural to urban areas have left a gaping hole, with no one to plug it. We are the agents of change and yet we have taken our education, our skills and our innovative ways of thinking and left behind our parents and grandparents, our much younger siblings and even children, to fend for themselves in a world that is completely different from what it was some decade and some change ago. Our rural urban migration has left an adverse effect on rural areas.
Now, I’m the last person to ever suggest that we need to go back and live in the rural areas. I’m not about to start blaming the government for the proper schools they should build, the extracurricular activities they must provide, the social development, et cetera, et cetera. All I’m saying is think about what you can do to give back.
With the education and experience we have, are we sharing it with the young ones back home, are we encouraging them on the best way forward, leading by example, being there and providing a sense of hope. A sense of “someone cares”. Showing them that they are indeed the future and that they can rise above the poverty and helplessness and make something of themselves.
Or do we see pregnant fifteen year olds, young boys turning to drugs and alcohol, all of them exposed to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, walking around with miseducation and do we just tut-tut, shake our heads and step back into our lives.
I could end off by sprouting a whole bunch of quotes I saw on Twitter and Google, stuff about "being the change you want to see in the world" (ok, I know that one was from Ghandi), that "change begins with you", that "you might just be one person but you can make a difference…"
But I won’t. The next step is yours. How can YOU help?