Earlier this year, Ezra Narun, a grade 11 student spent a couple of weeks with us. An organised team player, he was so full of energy and happy to get in on whatever task was at hand. He shared some of his experience with us and we'd like to share them with you!
My journey to the Wild Coast, specifically to Zithulele, was an eye-opening, heart-warming one that I will take with me always.
I stayed with a lovely and welcoming family on their homestead near the hustle-and-bustle of the one-street town of Zithulele. Leaving the comforts of Cape Town’s suburbs’ running water and mostly functional electrical supply and heading out into a rural area to stay in a homestead without those everyday, expected luxuries seemed quite the novelty. Before I arrived, it was easy to romanticise this type of living as a dream holiday.
The thing that struck me most on my first day in this new place was the peace of the area. Not to say that it was always silent – mostly it wasn’t! In the absence of the often unnecessary stresses and distractions of a busy city life, the peace I experienced was an energy of mindfulness – taking the day as it comes. Granted, there are different stresses here. People travel vast distances (on bad roads) for city conveniences. Jobs are few; water can be scarce, and a shortage of money poses many challenges. People work hard and for long hours yet, they still seem to have the time to smile and greet as you walk down the street.
I was a part of Axium’s holiday Ekukhuleni bootcamps which involved extra tutoring for the top students from surrounding schools. The students were, in general, friendly and welcoming to a new foreigner in their environment – always keen for playing some ball and mostly eager to find out about where I am from. In the classrooms, I found myself thinking: “No, the classroom doesn’t have all the resources privileged city schools have, but it functions with good teachers, sufficient desks and a chalkboard.” I had to remind myself that this holiday programme had passionate and qualified teachers working with a fraction of the number of students who, in usual circumstances, would have to share a two-person desk with five others, and that the schools I worked at were the relatively pretty ones. My experience was a filtered version of reality.
Having experienced one of the country’s finest government schools, being at schools around Zithulele and seeing the astronomical difference in provision and accessibility of resources was truly a shock to me. It’s mind boggling how schools this different from each other can coexist in the same educational system.
The room for improvement in our education system, particularly in rural areas, is unprecedented. It is very under-publicised, and I have found it both infuriating and heart-breaking to know how much corruption occurs among those who have the power to make a difference. It can be easy to become demotivated when you see all the injustices and all the change that needs to happen, and to feel so small – like the difference you can make is negligible. However, I have found it vital to try to gain perspective and to value the small differences which amount to a colossal effort towards betterment. Helping one person is making a difference.
There is an air of ambition and passion among the people and the NGOs in Zithulele which I find most stirring and awesome, reminiscent of the space in which they function: the Wild Coast. The area contains some magical and awe-inspiring qualities, from the mysterious verve in the air to the jaw-dropping sunrise, which I found impossible to ignore. A pinnacle of rural South Africa and the country’s beauty, it is imperative that this area is not ignored.
Quality of life needs attention from local and national authorities – service provision of the most basic needs and rights must become a priority. The area has to be preserved – it would be an incredible loss if it is not. Locals, traditional leadership and government authorities must work together to achieve this. In order for this to happen, all need to be provided with the resources to do so. An improvement in education will be at the heart of the necessary changes.
Although I don’t foresee any immediate changes or substantial progress, I left Zithulele with hope. I had the treat of seeing people with a vision, a plan and a drive to improve what the country has to offer rural areas, their peoples and the South Africa of tomorrow. I will be a part of a continued effort to spread the word about the action necessary in these parts and will be involved in putting plans for change into action. I hope that many others see the potential and share the hope and ambition with those out there making a difference.
The beauty of Zithulele sits with me, and I cherish the bonds I made there.