Herdboy who had a dream

2010-07-02 00:00

A LIFE coach, a motivational speaker, a group facilitator and a specialist in student camps, Xolani Zondi has come a long way from his days as a shoeless young boy who herded cattle­ and who hoped for a better life.

Growing up on New Hanover farms, the only aspiration of the other children his age was to grow up and become a tractor driver like the adults around them.

“That was all we were exposed to. Play time was about simulating tractor drivers like someone else’s father­. They were our role models,” said Zondi.

His daily routine was waking up before dawn. By 5.30 am he would be milking cows and taking them for grazing. But this made life hard for the boys who would later have to go to school.

“You have to understand that we had to walk barefoot. It was so cold that we would fight over the cow dung on which we warmed our feet.”

After this morning ritual the boys would wash their feet in cow’s urine, which made them unpopular with teachers and pupils at their school, who complained about the smell.

“We only had one pair of school shorts and a shirt. And by the time we could make our way to school it was late and we would get a beating for this, which made most of us question the importance of school.”

But it was in those early days that Zondi realised his only ticket out of this adverse poverty would be education­.

“I remember thinking that there must be something better than this. When I first saw a veterinarian, of course I did not know it then, but looking at his white coat and seeing his nice car, to me this meant power. And even though he was white, I identified with that better than being a tractor driver.”

Zondi’s business, X-axis, which was formulated in 2006, deals largely with corporate team building, life coaching and business leadership.

But he has recently taken on career­ development and study coaching in addition to his many other badges of responsibility.

The idea of starting the career development and study coaching came as a result of an outcry from parents he met while conducting life coaching in the professional world. The parents were concerned about career choices their children made.

“After sessions, they would ask if I could help their children. Since undertaking this, I realise that children are genuinely struggling to connect with who they are in the scheme of things. And that often affects their choices.”

Something else that became clear to Zondi when he engaged with pupils was the need for study coaching.

“I found that many children who moved from township or rural­ schools to former model C schools were struggling. I discovered that in some subjects, when they were in township or rural schools, they did well, then suddenly their marks would be different once they were in the model C schools.”

Zondi believes that this was influenced by the fact that they moved from being taught in their vernacular­ tongue to English as a medium.

He said that this made understanding technical terms in technological subjects especially difficult.

Zondi charges R400 for Saturday study coaching per month. During the World Cup holidays he is offering week-long classes for R400. He also offers tutorial in mathematics and science and orientates­ the youth by helping them navigate through the difficulties which they are exposed to in their teens.

His desire is to work with rural and township children who have had a rough upbringing just like he did. To do this, however, he needs financial help from businesses to enable him to run his programmes.

Zondi says, however, that the beneficiaries still need to give something towards the programme.

“Obtaining my secondary education was a mission. As early as high school I was funding my own education through gardening jobs in the suburbs. I believe that education is a necessary tool, but I think we need to instil a sense of ownership. Children need to learn about fair exchange. You give to get.”

While in Grade 11 Zondi was fortunate to be chosen for a KFC school bursary which carried him through to matric.

After matric, his hard work and good grades earned him one year on a science recovery programme, which was sponsored by the then University of Natal.

As a result of obtaining good results in the programme, he automatically qualified to study further with the university.

Zondi has always dreamt of having an impact on people’s lives, so he read for his BSc in science and mathematics because of the financial rewards that are associated with that profession. But it was his part-time work with Youth for Christ (YFC), to pay for his studies as a university student, that got him hooked on coaching.

“I was working at the YFC outdoor centre, training groups from different walks of life — corporate groups, people living with HIV, street children and high school groups — when I fell in love. This is how my career course changed and I decided to study sociology and English instead.”

Through his work at YFC, Zondi was introduced to the More To Life training programme, which is run by the Kairos Foundation. He has since studied advanced courses in the programme and he has received more than four years’ training in interpersonal skills and life coaching.

For more information, contact Zondi at 071 071 8254.


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