Listen to teenagers talking

2016-10-30 12:33

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Tanika Zeidler (16)

Down at the tip of Africa lies South Africa, a country with golden beaches and beautiful sunsets.

Although this country has many beautiful aspects, when you face the facts, there are many issues that face young people.

I can honestly say that South Africa’s educational system scares me.

The curriculum states that for many subjects, learners only need an average of 40% to pass.

This is scary because people are getting into universities even though they only know a fraction of their work.

Our universities are also extremely full and, most of the time, future students are not chosen based on merit but on other aspects.

Recently, student riots have been taking over South Africa and as someone who wants to go to university and study law, this makes me anxious.

If the students who are protesting this year will not write their final examinations this year, but next year, this would create a ripple effect as future students, like me, will then start university a year late.

This would also mean that I will have few free months before I start university.

It would be ideal to get a job in these months, but finding a job as a teenager has proven to be more difficult than I had originally thought.

The law states that it is legal to work from the age of 16, but the majority of companies will only employ those who are 18 or older.

I have quickly learnt that to get a job, you need experience and to get experience, you need a job.

If I do not have a job, I have no money.

Money is essential for teenagers because South Africa is not safe enough for children to walk around freely and meet new people.

This requires me to go out to different places and I cannot expect my parents to give me money to maintain my social life, meaning I need to make my own money.

Writing about friends made me think of the fact that 22 years ago, people of different races were separated.

This concept seems foreign to me as I have friends of all different races and I cannot imagine my life without them.

However, I am still surrounded by racist people, which really aggravates me because I long for a country where we can all get along and not base our opinions on people’s skin colour.

Our country is about much more than the negative aspects, especially because it offers multiple tourist attractions such as Table Mountain and the Kruger National Park.

I have been privileged enough visit these places.

My life is a breeze in terms of my surroundings, but I cannot say the same for other people in the country.

Living in South Africa is not a walk in the park, but I can hope that there comes a day where people can walk freely in our country without a fear or worry.

Tanika Zeidler is a Grade 10 pupil in Johannesburg

Sihle Manana (16)

I am a sucker for horror and supernatural movies, and a fan of metal rock and hip-hop music.

Being a South African teenager comes with its ups and downs.

Sometimes it becomes a living nightmare because there is not a single day that a person like me does not face discrimination, unless we spend our time indoors. This is because I was born with a medical condition called albinism.

Growing up and now as a teenager I’ve been called names such as “mlungu”.

People also point at me and will say things like I bath with milk.

I once had an emotional breakdown, but through the support of my parents, I overcame it.

Now I am more of an independent-minded person. In other words, I have hopes and dreams for the youth of this country.

When I think about race, skin colour and stigma I don’t just think about black, white, coloured and Indian, but also albinism.

People and children must be brought on board more often on understanding and protecting people living with albinism and avoiding making them feel like outsiders or another unwanted race.

There are also other negative things that prevent young people’s dreams from flourishing, such as adults who see children – especially teenagers – as a burden.

I think the better way to resolve this obstacle is for adults in South Africa to have a more positive view about children and not to discourage them.

And yes, from time to time we might mess up and cause trouble, but you should know that all grown-ups have gone through this stage and know what it was like.

I also think that government needs to listen to us more and react more attentively when young people raise certain issues, as delaying such things may also cause some more protests and massacres along the way.

We have seen 22 years of democracy in South Africa and in this time we have become more diverse than during the apartheid era.

For me, I may say that I am blessed to be born after that time of hardship, because democracy allows people to have a voice compared with when the system was closed off during apartheid.

And the rights of children are now being noticed.

Sihle Manana is a Grade 10 pupil at Barnato Park High School

Sibongile Chiume (16)

I enjoy writing stories, and love acting and music. I am just a simple girl with ambition and goals to achieve.

I am proud of myself because I know that I have to work hard if I want to succeed in life.

When I am done with high school, I would like to study dramatic arts because I love acting and I would like to become an actress one day.

This passion grew in me from the time I participated in the Inner-city Drama Festival, where I had to perform at the Hillbrow Theatre. From that time, I just knew that all I wanted to do was to act.

However, there are things that are holding me back from achieving my dreams – more like challenges. Growing up as a black child, your parents expect you to want to become a doctor, nurse, engineer, lawyer or an accountant.

So, for me to just come out of the blue and tell my parents that I want to become an actress is going to be challenging.

I also have to work hard on my studies because I know that my mother won’t be able to afford my tuition fees for university, so I am hoping for a bursary.

Another thing is, I don’t really have someone to look up to in order to get help with achieving my dreams, so it’s really hard to look forward to something when you know that there is no one to help you or support you as a child.

I know that the first thing I have to do is to try to convince my mother about my career choice and what I want to do.

That way I know that it will be easier for me to focus on my dreams and studies.

The minute my mother supports me and helps me to find a mentor, things will turn out okay because it hurts to have a dream and know that there is nothing much to do about it and then it just remains a dream.

I am ready to make mine a reality.

The good thing about being a teenager living in South Africa is that you can raise your voice and be heard, unlike other countries where children are being ignored and the adults get to say things on their behalf.

South Africa lets its children have a say and that’s why I love being a teenager growing up in South Africa. You are taught to face your fears and reach for your dreams.

Sibongile Chiume is a Grade 10 pupil at Barnato Park High School

Sihle Mazibu (16)

Describing myself in conversation often proves to be a task without much difficulty.

However, writing an article about my identity is more challenging.

At the turn of the century, 2000, I was born and named Sihle Mazibu. Many view this period to be a carefree one.

However, it presents a great amount of introspection and self-development to prepare myself for the senior phase, as well as the future.

As a South African teenager, aspirations, goals and dreams play an important role in my daily life and are a necessity in motivating myself to strive for those dreams that seem unreachable.

I aspire to get into a career that I am passionate about, hopefully in writing.

I hope to pursue journalism and make a difference in society somehow, whether it is in my writing or motivating those who may not have their voices heard or the opportunities that I am exposed to.

I aspire to be an inspiration to women in order for them to realise their potential.

I want to be an inspiration to young black women, like myself, or those who come from underprivileged backgrounds so that they may realise that they are as powerful as any other demographic.

My biggest aspiration, although a cliché, is to be happy and fulfilled.

As a female South African teenager, there are many challenges and obstacles that I may face in my progression into adulthood.

I think my biggest challenge is doubt, especially self-doubt.

Believing that you are not as good or worthy as your seemingly overachieving peers is a detrimental belief to hold.

This is what stood in my way of doing my best to accomplish or initiate certain activities, such as simple extramurals or even sharing my passion for writing with many others that I subconsciously convinced myself I was inferior to.

Socially, my challenge is attempting to excel as a female South African. For instance, a 2016 report by McKinsey & Company, Women Matter Africa, showed that in the private sector in Africa, only 5% of women are CEOs.

This is just one of many statistics that show the difficulty and inequality that women face.

The economy proves to be an ever-challenging factor in South Africa and this too may be a challenge for me.

Economical and financial difficulty also feed into my dilemma of deciding whether I want a career that I am passionate about or a career that I can excel in financially.

Personally, I think South Africa is a beautiful country regardless of the difficulties and negatives.

I believe that one of the ways for us to grow further as a nation is to stop choosing to dwell on the negative events and allowing them to define the country, but rather to mend these negatives and to strive to reach for a place of freedom and contentment.

I believe South Africans need to be hopeful and patient, no matter how difficult this proves to be.

I get extremely annoyed when I hear my peers discussing how they will leave the country for good in the future and then complaining about our current leadership. I think travel and educating yourself on a global spectrum is incredible and even necessary.

However, I believe that young people have a duty to take the initiative to better the country in as many ways as possible, instead of simply wanting to leave and abandon the country.

Sihle Mazibu is a Grade 10 pupil in Johannesburg

Presylia Maziezi (17)

I believe that I am an open-minded kind of person, always finding new, exciting ways to do things because to me it feels like it’s where I find myself, where my inner peace is and where I get to set my imagination free.

I believe that, in life, there is no greater weapon than the power of knowledge.

If you don’t update yourself with new information about what’s happening in your world, how are you going to improve yourself?

Being the firstborn in a family of five, I wouldn’t say that it’s hard, but it can be a handful sometimes and many people are looking up to you, expecting you to lead by example, to always have good grades and to be the first to provide for the family when you finish school.

That puts a lot of pressure on you.

So, when someone asks me what my hopes and dreams are, I don’t have a simple answer to their question.

I want to travel, meet new people, eat different kinds of food and learn more things about how other people live their lives.

I want to continue my schooling, go to university and, if God allows, open my own company.

However, the problem with our society today is that every young person has a voice, but we are not given the ears to be heard and that is harming our young people today.

We are given power to control our future, but we are not allowed to use it.

Government claims that power will go to our heads or that we’ll run out of control, but how will they know that if we as young people are not given the chance to use it?

It’s hard for me to get a good education or go to a good university because I am not a citizen and don’t have a South African ID book.

It hurts to know that we still live in a country where a black man will hate another black man because they don’t share the same nationality.

It’s hard for a country to just change overnight. We live in a society where people forgive, but never forget, so it makes it hard for people to trust.

When I’m walking down a street or going somewhere with my family, we get looks from people like we don’t belong here just because we don’t speak the same language as them and that’s really bad. I wish we could be more united.

I also want the school system to change, where learners are more hands-on about the change they want to see in their schools.

I want government to change the school system where only white children go to rich schools and black children go to poor or lower-class schools.

Maybe if the government listens more to young people, things will change.

Presylia Maziezi is a Grade 10 pupil at Barnato Park High School

Read more on:    johannesburg  |  youth

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