Study opportunities, safety and security are making me leave

2019-04-26 16:14
Chante du Preez

Chante du Preez

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South Africa is my home and my first love. It's an unconventional way to begin a letter, however, seeing that it's possibly the important part, it seemed fitting for it to come first. I am an 18-year-old female who will be leaving South Africa in September in order to study abroad. Although many may have leapt at the opportunity, I was hesitant. I couldn't help but feel as if I was abandoning my country, my home.

My decision was based mostly on the opportunity that I was given. It was an opportunity that I, unfortunately, would not have been given if I were to stay – I was offered a small scholarship simply because of my efforts. For the first time, I felt wanted by a university which is something I didn't quite experience in South Africa.

Because the degree I want to study only takes roughly 50 applicants each year, I knew I had to achieve beyond most pupils. I received four distinctions in matric, which I know was below what I'm capable of, but it was enough for my course. The university that I'd always dreamt of attending didn't give me the time of day so I ended up going to a large local university – I thank the heavens that I did.

Being thrown into an array of individuals of different races, religions, cultures and financial backgrounds popped that pretentious bubble I had been living in my entire life. The fact that I could have an ambassador's child to my left and an individual from a township to my right gave South Africa a new meaning to me. I've always been told but for the first time, I was able to experience how unique our home and our people are. Diversity has an enlightening and humbling effect on people, one that I hope all individuals have taken the opportunity to indulge in. 

I was at the local university for roughly two weeks when the protests broke out. My lectures were to continue, regardless, but I couldn't access the campus to attend them. The university dealt with the protests well, however, I found myself and fellow students were slowly falling behind. It broke my heart knowing that there were students who'd only had one lecture within two weeks.

Once the protests had come to a stop, the things I chose to ignore about South Africa started to sneak in. My lectures were split between four campuses, two of which were separated only by a two-lane road. It was brought to my attention that I must be aware of the gang that waits for students and their devices. Imagine not being able to cross a zebra crossing alone in broad daylight.

I was then warned about the on-campus crime and what had happened to girls who walked alone before. Growing up in a city with one of the highest crime rates in the world forces you to develop a thick skin but among that, unsettling anxiety.

In order to stay, I would need encouragement. Although verbal encouragement helps, I'd need it in actions. Rather than being told to stay, I'd need to be shown. Shown that I'm wanted. I'd need more feminine hygiene products to be accessible to young girls who can't afford them, I'd need to know that my friend coming from their township will get home without being raped… or worse. I'd need access to as many academic opportunities as I will be receiving abroad. I'd need the elderly who have contributed to our economy to be taken care of in their frail days. I'd need politicians to live fairly and honestly, and I'd need to be able to cross that short zebra crossing without being a victim of crime. 

As I began this letter, I've chosen to end it much the same. South Africa is my home and my first love. Although I'm leaving, I will at one point come back. My dream is to work within informal settlements, giving South Africans the medical care that they don't necessarily have access to. I want to give back to my home and I thank Mr Ramaphosa for letting me know that I have a future in South Africa. Although my future may return back here, I currently feel unwanted. To feel wanted by a place that I do not even call my home gives me a sense of betrayal.

I will never abandon my home. I just wish it would feel the same about me.

Chanté du Preez

Read more on:    violence against women  |  student protests

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