Mandisi Thunyiswa says he always knew that there was something about him that bordered on greatness; that he was destined for dizzying heights in life. Even safe in that knowledge, he concedes that had anyone told him that mining mogul Patrice Motsepe would turn his life on its head, he would have recommended that, that person check in at the nearest asylum. For the record, Thunyiswa is a beneficiary of Motsepe’s benevolence, courtesy of a bursary to further his tertiary studies.He has made so good of that opportunity that, to think, at 23-years of-age, as a teacher, he is just five years older than the average matriculant.Thanks to the Motsepe Foundation back in 2013, he went on to complete his studies and is currently teaching at Manyano High School in Litha Park.“I was doing my second year at CPUT when I received a call from Mrs Maureen Figlan, the principal at Kwa Faku Primary School in Lower Crossroads. She informed me of the Motsepe Foundation’s bursary scheme, just three days before the application deadline ... I managed to make the list of the top nine beneficiaries from CPUT.” For Mandisi, this moment was a life changer. “To be awarded a bursary that was contested by a lot of people meant a lot(to me). It taught me not to forget to plough back to the community. People like Patrice Motsepe are coming from the same Black conditions that we are faced with today. They have made it, but haven’t forgotten to see to it that the Black nation is educated and funded for university fees,” he reveals. Mandisi says his late father, Nzima Ndayi, contributed a great deal to his choice of career. “He always said those who drove the latest cars seemed to be mostly teachers... Fulfilling his dream of seeing me drive one of these ... (was the ultimate accomplishment). Mandisi regards an educators’ forum, which is a brainchild of his mentor Mfundo Hermanus, as the perfect platform.“It’s an initiative that is about getting involved in the day-to-day running of primary and high schools. What we are looking at doing is to try and change the landscape of the youth because currently in all communities, educated folk are not seen as role models. We are trying to re-enforce education in young people so that they can see the importance of going to school.” He adds that it falls on teachers and principals to keep the lines of communication between all schools open at all times, adding that parents need to be more involved in the management of schools. “Because our area is densely populated, I would welcome the day we find people we can register with the Department of Education to accompany kids on their way to school, people to help them cross the road. For learners without uniforms, we must try to raise funds. For those who have no one to assist them with homework, we need to find a way where after school, they meet with us and we can help them. Even wash and iron their school uniform.”What about crime, I ask him.“It’s a Black condition. Black people do not have autonomy over themselves. We are permanently lost, trying to find out who we really are. All these things come from the fact that we are not owning anything. We have sought to embrace things that have to do with Whiteness. You find that everything that was introduced by a White man is what we use today for black-on-black violence. The youth going astray I won’t blame on the education system, but it does play a role. The things that are introduced to us at primary and secondary school level do not equip us properly for when we become drop-outs. Before you come up with the solution, you need to find the cause. Why are things like this? We need leaders that will make speeches that will motivate us every day. We need book clubs. We need debates. An idle mind is the devil’s workshop,” he says. Mandisi resides in Nondlwana Road, one of the busiest and notorious streets in Lower Crossroads. It’s a playground for delinquents and has the most taverns for any street.Mandisi maintains, though, that he has always kept to the straight and narrow- thanks in no small part to the respect he holds for his mother, Nontsikelelo Sizakele (MamTolo). “Yes, there are a lot of taverns and shebeens here, but these are the only businesses we grew up knowing brings food to the table. I don’t have a problem with alcohol, but I have a problem when someone abuses it. Growing up in Nondlwana Road has been fun because it is a stop for buses and taxis. This street is home to old people who have a willingness to share words of wisdom with us. Nondlwana has its own history. It speaks a lot to me.”The Crossroads-born lad is concerned about the status quo of his beloved Lower Crossroads, where crime levels are sickeningly high. “If you go to the squatter camps we live in, not a single day goes by without violence. It’s a permanent mark. We call them rat-infested hellholes because there’s bloodshed every day. This is hell on earth,” he concludes.