A letter to the Class of 2016

2017-01-17 06:01


DEAR future leaders – you have reached a milestone in your schooling career and I am sure it feels great to finally get rid of those uniforms and become the awesome person you were meant to be.

I completed my matric in 1998 and remember that elated feeling when I wrote my final computer science examination – the end of a chapter. I was excited to enter the next stage of my life because I was fortunate to enter the world of tertiary education, and I would finally be studying something I loved.

I could never understand why I needed to learn about right-angled triangles or any type of math. School was something I took for granted, I just wanted to get through it and then enter the world and become who I was meant to be.

What I learnt later on life is that school helped me become the person I am today. I started my high school career in 1994 – the year that changed South Africa’s history. And if anyone had the right to say apartheid affected education, it was pupils like me.

However, my teachers were passionate, pushed us when we became lazy and never took their jobs for granted – they knew their role in their communities.

I was not private schooled. I went to a former House of Delegates school in a former Indian area. Yes, it was a very good school because I was blessed with capable teachers. At times we had over 30 children in the class, which at that time was considered a crowded classroom.

At this stage, we were being pushed. I know what it feels like to score a zero. Something like this would probably never happen today, but the teachers at my school were not afraid to mark you down if you did not work for something.

Short cuts were not allowed, I was taught to work hard for the results I wanted. I was not entitled to an A because I was in a school that was probably affected by apartheid.

My teachers’ nagging was part of the reasons why I hated school. I was not getting easy As and underachievement was not applauded or accepted. An underachievement was anything less than 50%.

When I became a student I was ready to conquer to the world and become a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist in my first year of study.

This entitlement was soon cut to the roots when I sat through lectures absorbing the different aspects of my chosen field of study. I also found that it was not so easy to walk into a newspaper and get a job because of “my awesomeness”. I had to work hard to earn my first R1 000 – my first pay.

I am glad I had no sense of entitlement because I never stopped trying to achieve something more or work hard to get to the next level simply because I was taught, at school level, that hard work pays off.

When I look back at my matric classmates, they have all reached their goals they set. I remember a pupil who hated school so much that he barely scraped a pass.

His parents also did not have the means to send him to a tertiary institute, so he probably didn’t see the need to work hard at school. Today, he has made his mark in the IT sector because of his natural aptitude for computers. He managed to get his degree in his 30s.

Class of 2016 - not all of you are fortunate enough to enter a tertiary institute, but that should not stop you from trying. You’re not “entitled” to enter university, as is the case with everyone in the world.

To those who will be entering the tertiary world, you’re not entitled to jobs thereafter, you have to “earn” it. And spending your time lounging around with your friends is not going to open doors for you.

I was fortunate to meet a remarkable young man from Umlazi, who is at Harvard College. This child could only dream of attending a private school let alone being accepted into one of the best colleges in the world on bursary, but he did it. This is proof that hard work pays off.

I would like to wish you everything of the best, and hope to see the Class of 2016 change lives and read about you in newspapers.

From the Class of 1998

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