MC DONALD SEDIANE (18) can proudly give testimony that he has survived a life of school gangsterism and drug addiction.
He has returned to school after being expelled from his previous school and being admitted to a rehabilitation centre in Bloemfontein.
Sharing his life experience with Express Northern Cape, Mc Donald admitted to having wasted three years of his life due to silly distractions.
He completed his rehabilitation programme in 2015, just in time to register at another school for gr. 10 and pursue his dream of studying Mechanical Engineering or Chartered Accounting.
His intention is to continue motivating and educating other youth like himself to make better choices, through the experience that has opened his eyes.
Mc Donald said he had given in to peer pressure after choosing the wrong friends, who introduced him to gangsterism and substance abuse.
“I wanted to be high and mighty, as I admired a fellow learner who was a gang leader at school,” Mc Donald said.
“He was bossy, untouchable, learners respected him and no teachers’ rules applied to him, as they feared him.
“I admired him so much that I once took him on in a fight for respect. I won, but was almost stabbed as a result. In the gang that I had joined, we called that ‘strengthening the friendship.’ ”
Mc Donald believes these choices were among the reasons for him having to repeat gr. 8 and gr. 9.
He adds that on most of the occasions when he realised that he had done badly in school, he would find consolation in smoking.
“I even went from smoking cigarettes to dagga, Mandrax and cocaine, which we bought from our connections.
“I was so involved in this that I was caught with 11 kg of dagga, went to court and was suspended from school. All of this resulted in me being expelled from school. That was in 2014, when I was repeating gr. 9.”
All this time, McDonald says, he was not aware of the pain, suffering and humiliation he was causing his family, especially his mother, Kedi, whom he is the closest to.
He had failed his parents after they had sent him to one of the best schools in town.
“But my mother’s love and dedication and perseverance is the reason why I can say we won the addiction battle,” he said while looking at his mom with admiration.
“I have learnt never to take advantage of my mother’s love, like I used to do. I am now closer to her than I used to be. That is all because of her commitment to turn my life around.
“We used to fight after she had realised that I was smoking.
“Of course I would be defensive and brush her off. That led to tension between my older sister and I, as she hated what I was doing to our mom.
“While I was the black sheep in the family, my neighbours and peers saw me as a failure as well.
“I learnt so much during my stay in rehab that I just feel like shouting to the world that I made it through. It was like a home from home and I would not think twice about encouraging someone else to go there.
“During the six months I spent there, I learned that one can pick one-self up and gain control of one’s life.
“I now know that I can survive anything, because I survived that time,” was Kedi’s first comment during the interview.
“I did all I had to do for the love of my child. I continued to ask myself whether my husband and I were failures. But I told myself that being a parent meant standing firm.”
She said she had to practise tough love and give her son a lashing before chasing him away from home after she had realised that he had smoked dagga for the first time.
“I was so upset on that day to think that I had been trying to get him to stop smoking cigarettes – just to realise that he had moved on to drugs.”
After chasing her son away, she went to seek advice at the Department of Social Development, which referred her to the National Institute for Crime Prevention and the Reintegration of Offenders (Nicro) for sessions.
“I remember how heartbroken I was when I saw him after I had chased him from home for a week. He was so dirty and looked so tired. Many nights I cried myself to sleep.
“Tears would also just run down my cheeks when I thought of my son.
“We attended counselling sessions with him until I asked for a referral to the other rehab centre in Bloemfontein. We were prepared to pay whatever the price was to rehabilitate our son.”
Mc Donald’s father on occasion also attended the sessions and sometimes attended on Kedi’s behalf.
She said that she would at times feel like things were moving too slowly and get agitated.
“Even today I feel like our parenting skills and faith were tested, but we passed the test as a family, through the mercy of God.”
As a piece of advice to other parents, Kedi encouraged parents to cherish a firm belief.
“Never give up on your children and have faith in God. Children are nowadays impressed by too many bad things in their lives.”