Reflections on our visit to Amaoti 3 Secondary School on the 13th March 2021 as part of our We are Durban’s Action for Good campaign.
Today I participated in extra lessons for matrics (grade 12) in Amaoti. Firstly, I was blown away that on a Saturday, of their own free will, they chose to come to school for extra lessons. I compare it to kids at wealthier schools and unless they are super driven or forced, you would not catch them at school on a Saturday for three hours of extra Math or English lessons!
The magic “they” say comparison is the killer of joy, and I must admit I lost a bit of my joy when I was struck by the differences and the biggest difference was the levels of hope in the kids. During a break in the math session I asked a group of them, “What are your plans for the next year?” to which I received blank stares and puzzled looks. I probed further and got more of the same and this made me heartsore. If I think of matrics, and even grade 11’s, that I have had the privilege to be in contact with; when you ask them what their plan for after school is, it’s a real conversation starter: gap years, studying, internships, working, whatever. The excitement grows – it’s the start of their adult life with a bit more freedom and independence and they are excited. These kids were not. And I had to ask myself, “why?”. What are the possible reasons for that response?
My immediate thought is that they do not have dreams. No vision for their future. No hope. I asked why and started to think of multiple options. They live in constant crisis day-to-day. Safety is not assured, food is not assured, not even water is assured. If that is your day-to-day reality, you have to live in the moment, can’t even think of the next week because next week may not come. Perhaps, over years of this it dulls your ability to dream, to hope and as a result plan for a brighter future.
My next thought was, perhaps its culture? I am not Zulu like the youth we are speaking to. I know, when one is pregnant she never tells anyone the due date in case a curse is put on the child. Potentially they don’t want to speak about their hopes or plans in case someone curses their dreams and they don’t become a reality. I have subsequently found that this is not applicable but they could have worried about people acting out of spite to destroy their plans.
My third thought was around independence. For wealthier kids much of the excitement is around gaining a bit of freedom, but these youths arrived to the school on their own with many having lost parents and are the head of their household already. Many have children of their own. There will be little to no change for them next year in that regard; if anything they will be expected to contribute more.
It may be a combination of the above. If these kids represent the majority of South African matrics, how do we change this? How do we bring hope and decrease stress? How do we transform a generation? I believe it is totally do-able but we do have to work together though. Organisations such as Lungisani Indlela, Key of Hope, iThemba Lethu and Bright Stars engage with the youth, mentor, teach and walk alongside them. They will catch those who are wanting to, are willing to and have a glimmer for more, for a change in their lives.
Volunteer if you would like to be part of the change. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch with one of these organisations.