We are living in a 20 year old democracy today. IT’s a marvelous time to be alive. We have a president who is been getting graded poorly by his opposition, over spending the nations funds, and booed by the people he is supposed to be serving. As a performing artist I know that being booed on stage means people don’t like the performance or they feel like the performer is wasting their time. Why is it so?
As a child of the average class South African I’m really glad that we have programmes such as the Reconstruction Development Programme and Black Economic Empowerment put in place in our country. These programmes make it possible for those who were previously disadvantaged to have an opportunity at a better tomorrow. I should be grateful as these programmes are pretty much aimed at me (the average class South African youth) and I am the one (part of the many) who have to benefit from them.
Before I go any further allow me to define what I mean when I say the average class South African. The average class South African is that lady/gentleman who served you (probably with a smile) at the supermarket a while back, the one who had to catch a taxi/bus (or two) to make their way to work, the one who had to bear the odour that resonates from the armpits of a hard working contractor whom he/she commutes with daily on the Metrorail train, the one who understands the innovative art of constructing a shack, the one who has to strike to get a raise, the one who probably only admirers literature when it is packaged in a Daily Sun newspaper. Wait… I could actually write a book about the average class South African! But to keep things short he/she is the lower economic poverty stricken working class South African.
Back to where I left off… these programmes are pretty much aimed at me (the average class South African) and I am the one (part of the many) who have to benefit from them. It would be a lie to say that “I” haven’t benefitted from them in one way or the other. Yet in the same breathe it would be lie to say that “I” haven’t been cheated out of some of those benefits. Let me use myself as an example. I grew up in an RDP household. I went to one of the local public primary and secondary schools which some might say are a little under resourced (passed quite well with those “minimal” resources). My first year of study at the University of Pretoria studying a BSc Computer Science was paid for by the taxpayer through the GCRA. My current studies are being paid for by a company, CSIR, which prides itself in working towards building a better country (They have a wonderful bursary programme). If all goes well, meaning if I WMAO (work my ass off) to get good grades and stand out as a performing student, I’m going to have a secure job at that company when I complete my current studies and also a potential sponsor to further my studies.
I’m here to tell you that all of this is made possible by the programmes that were put in place during the 20 years of our beloved Democracy (that and also by the many people who have been telling me “Kena Sekolo!” through most of my juvenal years). Without this, my situation could be a whole lot different.
Hypothetically speaking… I could be running repairs on a shack (that would probably be housing a family of 5) which caved under the bad weather we have been experiencing of late. I could be trying to supplement my Matric marks so that I could be able to apply for a course I have a passion for, at an institution that isn’t shady as the brouchers they give out to random strangers walking through the congested city streets. I could be struggling to pay fees for a course I would be doing only to pass the time (no one wants to sit at home after matric). I could be working that part-time/full-time job in a retail store that wouldn’t give me a day off on public holidays. I could be a twenty something with no solid career to pursue. If these things were what I was actually experiencing in my life, I would really have a reason to feel like I’m being cheated out of something.
Even though this is not the case for me. I still do feel cheated. In most of my final year classes we are at most 40 students taking a subject. Is it sensible that the average number of black students is 10 out of that 40, in a country where blacks are the majority? Let me politically correct that that statement… Is it sensible that the average number of non-white students is 10 out of that 40, in a country where non-whites are the majority? I even feel like 10/40 is an overestimation on my part.
20 years and this is it? Knowing this statistic what would you think the pool looks like for the top 10 performing students in these classes? Usually it’s 1 or 2 out of the top 10. Even that is quite a rare occurrence. I started grade 1 in the year 1998 along with 40+ other black kids in my class. Which other stepping stones have my other 30 brothers and sisters perched on to have a better tomorrow?
In fact, the dream is that the youth of South Africa have all the resources they need to become constructive citizens of the country. We were told at a young age that if we are hard workers and have great grades to show for it we will get the financial assistance we need to do what we dream of doing. We are made to believe that we will get to a stage where our great grades will award us a greater opportunity when the time comes. We are made to believe that the future is bright and that we can actually step into this enlightened state despite of how dark the place called home is. We are made to believe that we can live a dream no matter how big it is. In reality we dreamers and believers don’t always get to see the land of milk and honey. Heck! We dreamers and believers have stopped putting milk in our tea because we don’t see enough of it. For 20 years I feel we should have more to show. I feel I should be seeing more of my brothers and sisters in class, or at least see more them on campus.
Let us not accept that the Black man is the symbol of poverty, mental inferiority, laziness and emotional incompetence.