If School Cannot Do It, Life Will.

August 27, 2019 | By Mlondi Mahlalela

Nkomazi is a rural area of South Africa, east of Johannesburg, where most young people have access to both primary and secondary schools, but the offerings of these schools are infamously poor in quality.

Without a school culture that fosters curiosity and drive in its students, Nkomazi society exposes its young people to drugs, binge-drinking, violence, and crime. A lot of these aspects of life have become ingrained in our daily life, foundational aspects of our youth’s culture. For example, young people see more men abuse women which leads to you boys feeling superior and seeing females as objects.

Most young people in Nkomazi grow up in extreme poverty and have little socio-emotional support, who go to school in hopes of making their dreams come alive only to find that it adds to their difficulties. Most students suffer bullying, struggle to socialize, and fail to learn correctly in schools with limited teachers, facilities, and corporal punishment as the main form of student-teacher communication. Thus, some students fail to do well in school and eventually drop out.

After that, some are motivated to run away from home and end up in the streets where they seek success through crimes and many other activities that can endanger their own lives. This poem is fictional and non-fictional, information gathered from stories of my age-mates in Nkomazi. It serves as a voice for the silenced.

In a book titled “Long Walk to Freedom”,
the late Nelson Mandela, wrote that,
“I knew I was in for a new kind of education”.

What is education?

Education is the key to success, many often say,
it opens doors to a better life.
A phrase I have heard one too many times.
By the way, I wake up every day
and go to school In search of this key,
yet I do not see what it looks like.

Maybe I’ve seen it before, is it like the one that
my father uses to teach me how to be a man?
He used it to lock the door, kickbox me.
He taught me through violence and rage as
if I was a page for him to draw all his anger.
I was only ten back then
I tasted my tears and from that moment I knew
that the roots of education are bitter.

The next year I got into fifth grade
I had nobody to aid me with love and care.
My mind was tangled as my hair.
My heart was as black as my skin.
I didn’t want to be mean but that’s all life meant to me.
Suffering was getting the best of me and
the world got the worst of me.
Yet society expected me to find this key to success.
Meanwhile, it turned a blind eye on my
ability to see a brighter day in this cloud of negativity.

Some said I have teachers to help me see,
but they too were blinded by the world’s deeds onto their own lives.
All I saw were wounded people hitting me with
sticks telling me discipline would stick with me,
I mean how did they expect to heal my mind and soul
by scarring my body?
How could they expect to heal me if they never knew
where I was wounded.
They hit me just like my father.
What difference could I make in my life
if everything and everyone around me stayed the same?
Who was to blame for my behavior, my father who had
turned me into a slave and a punching bag,
thinking that his memory of his abusive father
would fade?
I was a multipurpose tool, an object, with many
purposes besides my own.
I was born to be a great dancer but he had turned me into
a broken stool where he could sit and cry about not having
anyone to stand up for him.
Or is it the society that taught men to be strong
and never cry, that taught them to die inside?
The society that gave them more access to violent
men and women than loving and caring parents that
would inevitably teach them how to live.
A society that gave men and women beers to hide their tears
than coaches to help them battle their fears.

To me, this didn’t sound right hence
I decided to listen to the sound of neglect.
One day it finally told me to run.
I ran, ran away from my problems.
I ran from a house that was supposed to be my home
Ran away from my empty school that was full of
other kids like me, who may have had it worse than me.
Kids who may possibly know what it’s like to have
family, who don’t know what it’s like to be hugged, what
it’s like to dream, to be free, to see hands lift you up when you
fall, this not all but I have to call it a day.

I ended up in the streets. I sat down in defeat.
A few hours later, a kind-looking man
lifted me up to my feet.
He promised to take me to better days.
I threw myself in the backseat of his car.
A couple of hours down the road,
free from the cold sidewalk, listening to
A man talking to me until he said, I too
never wanted
to be like this or do what I am about to
do to you”, I realized
I had made the wrong assumption about him,
this man had no good intentions for me.
Really? Another lesson from society?
I opened the door before he could lock it and I jumped
out before fear could block it.
Life had taught me another lesson.
When people said I had access to education
This not what I had in mind.

About Imagine Scholar

Imagine Scholar is a non-profit organization based in the rural region of Nkomazi in South Africa. Our aim is to empower talented, action-oriented youth through meaningful after-school programming that emphasizes student-centered learning and meta-learning practices. We hope to foster a community of young learners that encourages critical thinking, gratitude, and curiosity, but more so empowers students to be different and extraordinary in their own ways. It is our goal to produce great 30-year olds in this program, believing that by promoting more change-makers in our society, we can create ripples that empower communities or all types and sizes. Our program will soon be coming up on our 10-year anniversary.

About Mlondi Mahlalela

Mlondi is currently attending Mahhushe Agricultural High School in Nkomazi, a rural region of the Mpumalanga province in South Africa, as a Grade 11 student. Mlondi is a talented and thoughtful young man with a talent for poetry and an inquisitive mindset. Mlondi joined Imagine Scholar as a Grade 9 student, an avid conversationalist and budding writer. Since, Mlondi has continued to find excitement in exploring expression with his peers, starting and leading a poetry club called Vocal Impact. Mlondi hopes to pursue studies in education and psychology in university.