Voices: The struggles and successes of SA youths

In 1976 young people joined together to protest the institutional racism of the Bantu education system. Hundreds died for the cause. This June, the DAILY VOX TEAM went out to find out more about the struggles and aspirations of a new generation of South Africans, 20 years after democracy.

Noxolo MrubataNoxolo Mrubata, 16, Dobsonville (Soweto)

My biggest achievement was passing Grade 10 and going to Grade 11. It feels so good to be a pre-matric student. And also getting awards and certificates at school for passing well was a huge thing for me. I got awards for Tourism, History, Mathematics and Geography. I always get level 7 and 6 on these subjects. The other certificates were for the competitions I entered at school.

My biggest struggle is Iearning in English. Sometimes I do not understand it, so when I have homework I come home and ask my parents to help me. It’s like, I can read the sentence but not understand what it means and I have to ask somebody to explain it to me.

I have not yet made a sacrifice but I know Nelson Mandela and Steve Biko sacrificed a lot for us. Nelson Mandela sacrificed for our freedom, for us to be able to go to school and get free education. Then Steve Biko fought for black empowerment and that taught me that everyone in South Africa must be treated equally.

My biggest hope is to achieve my dreams, I want to become a fashion designer like David Tlale, and to pass my matric with distinctions so that I can buy my mom a house and get myself a car.

Tiffany GallowTiffany Gallow, 16, Athlone (Western Cape)

 I work with The President’s Award programme, and I’m looking forward to my gold awards because I got my bronze and my silver already, so that’s my success. My friends that I have, influence, peer pressure… those are challenges for me. Like, for example, on Saturday, my friends asked me to go with them and then I said no, because they went with boys that they just met on the corner. So, they actually trying to influence me and put pressure on me, because the whole time they asking me, but I said no and I came back home.

The youth face abuse, peer pressure, substance abuse … there’s many things. I can’t name them. They do make bad choices but it’s the people around them that drive it. They see what other people are doing, then they want to do it. We have alcoholism at home in my family. It made an impact on my life and opened my eyes like “Woah, Tiffany, stop. Don’t do that”, because I see how people get hurt when they drink. They swear a lot and go psycho.

Whatever I want to do I do it.  My greatest hope is that the South African youth must all come together and there must be unity. It mustn’t be like there’s just one part of the youth that’s doing something, they must all come together and just speak about their community and their society and work out society. For myself, I just want to finish school and be a psychologist.

Lindiwe NgubeniLindiwe Ngubeni, 16, Soweto (Gauteng)

I do really well at school and for me that is the ultimate achievement, especially for where I want to go

Being 16 and trying to get along with your parents is the greatest struggle, especially my mother, because she has lived away from our family because of work. She stayed in Bloemfontein and I never really got to know her and bond with her. I think with time, I will get an opportunity to become closer with her.

My mother is the person who has had to sacrifice the most; she left everything in Bloemfontein to come live with us in Johannesburg. She does not like it in Johannesburg and it took a lot for her to get used to it but she is doing it for us and she is managing now.

I aspire to being a doctor. Firstly, I love maths and sciences but more than that, I really want to help people and make them better. My cousin is studying medicine and listening to her tell me about what happens at the hospital intrigues me and inspires me.

Annemi NelAnnémi Nell, 15, Piet Retief (Mpumalanga)

I love swimming and I do that competitively. [My greatest success] with swimming was being able to go to nationals and getting medals. This year I got two silver and our relay team got two gold and one silver. The previous year I got gold. I’m a keen swimmer. Besides studying it’s the thing I like to do most of all. It’s hard at times… but you have to be committed.

I haven’t had many struggles but it might have been when my dad passed away a few years ago in a car accident. But now my mum’s remarried so everyone’s happy again. I do [still] think about him. You’re sad but it’s not like life isn’t good any more. It’s difficult but if you have people around you to support you, it’s okay.

Up to this moment I’ve never had to make a sacrifice, and I don’t know anyone who has.

My hope is to make a success after school, like being able to go study and do something with my life that has value, and to get somewhere with swimming. I’m not sure I will ever stop swimming even if things get busy, like if I go to university. You should make time to do something, if it’s really important to you.

Abhay JagdoeAbhay Jagdoe, 16, Durban (KwaZulu Natal)

 My greatest struggle has been school and coping with the stress of trying to do well and studying. I am writing exams now and have to push to do well so one day I can finish school with good results and become successful in life.

 My dad went through a phase were he was unemployed and the entire family supported him to continue and we finally got out of it and are okay today.

My proudest moment in life was receiving the dux award [for the top marks] in grade 7 which still is the happiest moment in my life. We all need to appreciate what the kids of Soweto did. I wouldn’t have done well in school if I was taught in Afrikaans.

 The past is very important to me as an Indian South African because we wouldn’t have had the same quality of education under apartheid rule.

Thabo MathonsiThabo Mathontsi, 17, Mount Fere (Eastern Cape)

I can say [my greatest achievement] is my music. I am a group member of Siyahlabelela [a local musical group]. We sing at weddings, parties and I am enjoying it. I am also a lead singer in my school choir and I love that our music moves people and makes them dance and have fun.

My greatest struggle was losing my brother last year. That left an empty space in my heart and even now I am not over it but God is helping me heal. The people who killed him are still not arrested, so now my family is living in fear.

I have not made a sacrifice but my mom left us alone and left her job to go back to the village and take care of my sick grandmother. She was not healing and there was no one around to cook for her and help out with the cleaning and washing.

I hope to one day make it as a musician who will be known all over South Africa. Now we are still performing around the area but I hope we get big competitions so that some big artist can spot us and give us a recording deal. Singing is my greatest passion and I do it better than I play soccer with the other boys.

Aneesah CassimAneesah Cassim, 16, Vryheid (KwaZulu Natal)

Making it through school has been my greatest success, it’s very challenging in school. There’s so much to do but I think staying in the game is pretty much what I’ve achieved. It’s not really much of a difference being 16 and in matric, when you’re around everyone else you don’t really feel the age gap. I actually didn’t go to Grade 1, after pre-school I did a bit of home schooling then I went to Grade 2. I am proud, and I’m very grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given.

Maths is one of my struggles, but I don’t think I’ve really had many struggles in life.

 I don’t think we’ve been given so many opportunities that we can use in South Africa. People always tell us we are going to be the future leaders but they don’t really tell us how we are supposed to lead. They don’t tell us what kind of leaders we should be.

 We’re a family of four, so you make sacrifices with sharing, especially sharing a room and stuff like that. You know, family, you learn to make sacrifices in life for family.

 My greatest hope is to choose a career and be successful in it, and to use that career to give back to my community. I’m considering teaching, and that way to help kids and create better opportunities for them. There’s so many less fortunate people and we take it for granted that we’ve been given opportunities so easily, so in some way you feel that you want to help make other people’s live a bit better.

 I’m from a small town so it’s exciting to leave and go to university, but also a challenge because you don’t know what to expect.

Nosiphiwe MvimbiNosiphiwe Mvimbi, 16, Welkom (Free State)

My greatest achievements are being in grade 10, being young, still being a virgin, not dating and still not facing the challenges that other kids are facing. Not being pregnant is an achievement and I’m looking forward to achieving more. Teenage pregnancy is really affecting us as youngsters and there is HIV, which scares me. Being a young mother, I am afraid of that, so I need love and guidance. Actually I am quite clueless in the world of being an adult so I love being the kid I am.

The struggle is at school, when it comes to choosing the right friends and not being influenced badly, there is always peer pressure. Most of my friends bunk classes, some smoke, they date guys that have money and cars and they try and influence me to do what they are doing. So they label you as an idiot, a kid, some will call you “mommy’s little girl” but at all times I try to maintain my standards.

I have never made any sacrifices. I would say it is my educators and my parents [who have], those teachers who took their time to motivate me, who supported me all the way and prepared me for the challenges I am going to be facing in life.  Also my mom for spending on me, money for school, making sure I always dress fancy and taking a lot of [pocket] money to school.

I am very ambitious, I want to be a doctor, a scientist, I want to explore the world and see what South Africa has got for me. I still want to travel the world and date someday. It’s crazy, being a teenager but of all my goals I really want to be a doctor.

Reporting by Pontsho Pilane, Ra’eesa Pather, Rumana Akoob and Uyanda Siyotula