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Education weathers life's storms

By unknown | Jun 15, 2007 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Dorothy Khosa

Dorothy Khosa

Tsidiso, a young man in his early 20s, walked into my office the other day. Like many others, he asked me a question that got me scratching my skull.

What do you do when life's pressure pushes you into a corner? How do you respond when you feel a bubble is about to burst inside of you and your back is against the wall?

He told me: "I have in the past four years tried everything in my power to find work, attended numerous training courses, have lost count of internships, I do not want to do crime but I need to survive!"

He explained the many life pressures he has coming mainly from three sources. Firstly, the family expectations and constant drumming of utterances that he is a burden, his family can no longer afford to carry him, and instead he should provide for them.

He is, secondly, aware and envious of achievements of several friends in his immediate community with only a primary school education. They are strategically connected to political heavyweights and are therefore benefiting from lucrative deals. There are also those whose riches somewhat seem to have mushroomed in ways that cannot be understood or explained, and receive a warm embrace from society.

Thirdly, he has not been able to attract a suitable girl into a relationship because he cannot even afford a "stolen VW Golf". These three pressure points - everyone knows - can wreak havoc with one's sense of self-worth and manhood.

There are thousands of young people who can identify with Tsidiso, who are on the verge of desperation, who want to do the right thing, who aspire to be respectable citizens but are driven to crime as a result of the prevailing harsh circumstances they find themselves in.

As society we have instead often led ourselves to believe that most people who commit crime are heartless, angry at those who are successful and will stop at nothing to satisfy their selfish interests.

We have tended to explain potential criminals as those with a history of violence, abuse, without positive models, deprived or have absent father figures. Research and statistics have always come in handy to support this type of thinking.

It is a rare thing to consider these youngsters as people with a conscience, who hate what they do to society, and in Tsidiso's words "are people with a need to survive".

These youths swell the ranks of the marginalised as a result of a society that has not provided them with an education that makes them productive citizens. They - only in their name - possess health and energy that is idle and if not constructively used, will forever pose a serious threat to the country's stability.

The month of June is a reminder that education was once a critical site for a bloody and bitter struggle for freedom. The children of this land in their quest for freedom sacrificed their education, faced bullets and fled to foreign lands in the hope that one day Bantu Education would be replaced by an education system that would make the future generation equal with the rest of the world. In the thirteenth year of democracy, this is yet to be realised. It is for this reason that education has to remain a priority on the national agenda.

The many endless debates and restructuring of processes have led to detours and dead-end streets. It is perhaps time to abandon some of those fruitless talks and focus on the crisis at hand.

l Dorothy Khosa works for the Youth Violence Prevention Programme at the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation


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