Breathe 

I had just learnt to breathe again, 

And then you took all the air right out of my lungs 

And now I can’t breathe without feeling you in the depths my chest

But if I pulled all of you out

I’m afraid I’d leave nothing.

Nothing of you. Nothing of myself.

Nothing of how it was it. 

To you, who gifted me anger

My anger has now become as parasitic as you were.

It keeps me up at night,

 Raging, worrying, breaking, crying.

It takes everything out of me and leaves me with a bouquet of bitterness,

And in every moment of this heavy hate

 I know the only way to rid myself of this box

Is to let it go.

Twisted isn’t it?

Almost as twisted as pretending to have cancer.

It breaks me,

Like you did

And I wish you had left it at that.

 broken things can always be fixed,

but a bouquet of bitterness only fixes itself

 to every other flower ,

that ever tries to grow in your soul.

There used to be flowers in my soul,

So many-

enough for you and me

And now,

only a bouquet of bitterness.

#TextbooksMatter: For the real MVP’s

A couple of weeks ago I went into Limpopo to meet learners who had no access to their textbooks, I spent a couple of hours with each child as they told me about themselves, what school was like and what they hoped to be in the future. I am a Journalist, I do interviews all the time. But nothing could have prepared me for that Limpopo trip. See, when we talk about kids not having textbooks, there isn’t much of a story is there? At face value it’s just a child who doesn’t have a book, and I guess that was what I was expecting to find. But what I really I found were children who refused to give up on themselves, despite the fact that the government had. It was a story of determination,and I think there are only few people in this world that I will meet that  will be as resolute as these kids were.

I wasn’t in Limpopo when the news about the judgement broke today and I wish I had been. I can only imagine what those kids would’ve felt when the entire country agreed that #TextbooksMatter.
It’s been a long road, but here we are. Now the whole world knows that‪#‎TextbooksMatter‬, But I wanted to take a moment to make sure that these kids knew what this judgement really means for them.

This is for the real TextbooksMatter MVP’s, : Tsakani Shilowe, Thabo Rasemana, Johannes Nkuna, Antoinette Mtshabe, Respect Rhikhotso, Nomsa Khosa, William Thamagana, Simon Selabe, Khomotjo Ramatswi, Nyeleti Mabunda, Katlego Seshoka, Sello Ramoshaba, Reneliwe Mohale, Risuna Ngobeni Njabulo Mahlangu, Nqobile Mahlangu, Ntsako Maluleke and Nyiko Mahlawuli.

Dear Team,

We won.

Today, the supreme court of appeal dismissed the appeal from the Department of Education and ruled that not providing children with the textbooks they need is an infringement on the right to education.

Johannes, when we met you said to me “I feel like we are not part of South Africa, Limpopo is the last thing they think about” and Thabo, you told me that you wanted to make a difference, you wanted to make sure that other children don’t experience the same thing that you have.

Look what you’ve done.

No child in South Africa (not just Limpopo) will ever have to learn without a textbook again and it’s all because of you. I think we all knew when we started the #TextbooksMatter campaign that there was little that we could actually do for you. You were well into your final exams and there wasn’t much a textbook could have done for you at that point, despite this (and maybe in light of this) you still decided to tell the world why #TextbooksMatter.

From today, I hope you know and never forget how powerful you are. You made an entire country listen to you, and when you spoke there wasn’t a single person who disagreed with you. That’s how much we believed in you, and your dreams.
You and your dreams, were worth it.

Bravery comes in many forms. It doesn’t always have a grand entrance with marching bands or a spectacular costume. Sometimes it comes as one kid, who has to use his bed as his desk. Thabo, I remember how apprehensive you were about letting us into your room, you said it was embarrassing. There wasn’t anything to be embarrassed about, because that room is where the leadership of this country will come from.

One day, you will all have your own children and they will not believe you when you tell them that you had to go to a court of law 5 times before you got your textbooks. They won’t believe you, because Today South Africa chose equality, they chose dignity and they chose opportunity. And these are all things that your children will have. Equality, Dignity and Opportunity. They will have all these things, because you didn’t.

The South African government failed you, but still,you did not give up on yourselves. You showed up to school every single day. You dared to dream, even though you weren’t allowed too, and I am so grateful that you did that. Because if you hadn’t, today would never have happened.

Today, the whole country is celebrating this victory, but it is yours. You did this. You and your parents, principals and community members took on the entire Department of Education and you guys won. and because you did, the whole country has won. The Supreme court of appeal says : ” It cannot be emphasized enough that basic education should be seen as the primary driver of transformation”

That’s what the court has to say and this is what I have to say: I am so incredibly honored to have met you guys, I feel privileged to have had an opportunity to listen to your hopes and dreams. You will do so much for this world, I hope you never stop speaking, and even when you are most afraid, think back to this moment and find it within you to speak a little louder. We will listen.

This is only the beginning.

In ten years I am going to know an :Environmental scientist, a sports manager, a teacher, social workers, a Financial adviser, an attorney ,a Paramedic, A TV presenter, an Actress, a Police woman, an optometrist, and a Doctor. Nothing can stop you now. Go forth and conquer, there isn’t anything else to do, but to go out into the world and be great. Now that you’ve done it once, you can do it again. The whole country knows that.

I am on your team, always.

Love
N.

 

This piece was created in my capacity as a SECTION27 Journalist and it first appeared on the Facebook page of Basic Education for All (BEFA)

All these images were taken by Thom Pierce

 

Working at SECTION24 and protesting when there’s too much wind

Yesterday, one of the kids that was in my honors class casually turned to me and said ” So how’s it going at SECTION24? “You guys just protest about everything right? if the weather changes, you protest, if there’s too much wind, you protest”.

Thixo wase George Goch.

Firstly, Its 27. SECTION27, it comes from SECTION27 of the South African constitution that entrenches the right to food security, health care, sanitation and social security. Unfortunately, what most privileged people (Privileged in a sense that we have never had to struggle to access the most basic of rights) don’t realize is that the constitution is not self-enacting.  Just saying that rights exist, does not mean that everybody experiences them fully and equally.

Without people like us, who have chosen to dedicate their lives to ensuring we really are all equal before the law.  Thousands of people in this country would be left behind.  Thousands of children would just have to accept the fact they will never get access to a proper school and just get on with it. Thousands of foreign Nationals of the SADC region wouldn’t bother seeking health care because they don’t know that they have the right to health care in South Africa.

Yes. We spend a lot of time protesting and maybe it’s a hell of an inconvenience, but can you imagine how much more inconvenient it is to be denied medical attention at your local clinic/ hospital. Imagine how inconvenient it is to  have to write your final maths exam after not having had access to a textbook all year. Imagine how inconvenient it is to be a 60-year-old, arrested and tried for attending a peaceful night vigil.

We don’t just protest because we have nothing better to do with our time.  We get out onto the streets because the constitution is for everyone, we get out onto the streets because even if nobody else will listen to the children of Limpopo, we will. We get out onto the streets  because one more HIV related death is one too many. We get onto the streets because Mining companies cannot and must not  get away with exploiting  poor black people, we get onto the streets because there is no reason a child should die in a pit toilet. We get out onto the streets, because you won’t.

Joining SECTION27 was not a last resort. Making this world a better place is our  first option. All the people that work at SECTION27 don’t have to be here, many of them turned down high paying jobs at fancy law firms to work insane hours, and represent people who will never be able to give them a single cent. Despite this, they show up every morning and do what they have to.

It may mean nothing to you, because what do 117 community health care workers that got fired have to do with this afternoons market report, what does it matter that an entire generation of students in Limpopo have been denied an opportunity at upward social mobility? To you, nothing. To me, it is everything. It is the reason I wake up every morning and go to work, because more than just working for a salary , I am working to make South Africa work.

The reality is, this is a thankless  job. I will probably never be an award winning Journalist, and I will never get a front page story. Kodwa akusenani, I am not here for the by-lines anyway. I am here for Tsakani Shilowe, who has no textbooks but wants to be an environmental scientist. I am here for MaMatwa whose house was petrol bombed, and had nobody to turn too. I am here for Mma Mokeona who dedicated 15 years of her life to save lives without receiving a single cent. I am here for these people,  because they  need just one person on their side, they need one person who will help them tell their stories, they need one person who will stand up for them. I am here for these people, because they are here for South Africa.

So I’m sorry we’re always protesting, but we are activists, and where lives and rights  are at stake we are impossibly impatient. We are world changers, and in this country, we’re a little busy.

If you are not on the front lines  in the fight for Social Justice, or doing one thing to make this country or someone else’s life a little better, then I don’t expect to have this conversation with you again.

 

Things we left behind

Zimbabwe, November 1993. I was crying when we left. I was two years old, My Mother had just died and the only other person that could take care of me lived in another country, and just like that. I was off to South Africa. People don’t sit in Refugee camps for fun; they don’t cross crocodile infested waters because they have nothing better to do with their time. The story of Immigration is the same all over the world. It is a story of sacrifices made in the hope of a better life. It is the story of broken families, endless longing, constant goodbye’s and not enough hellos’ to make it better.

If there is one thing that unites us all it is sacrifice. These are the hands that have built homes, and were forced to leave them. These are the hands that haven’t held their children, these are the hands that want to reach out and be held, and these are the hands that could pull you from the darkest nights into the light. I don’t believe that these African hands can be foreign in Africa. I don’t believe these hands are asking for anything more than to be loved and accepted. And at any given moment, these could be your hands. Serge, Mike, Joe, Tracy, Deepal, Muwanguzi, Soonan, Zubair,Hicham, Eljonai and Wallenj, Thank you for sharing your stories with  me. Your bravery inspires me. It will get better, I can’t tell you when-but we live in hope (I have enough for all of us).  I wish I could do more, but just know that these hands will always be willing to write your stories.  N.

Ndlela’nhle Tata, 1918- Forever.

I received a text from my friend this afternoon and she told me she was  expecting a piece on the death of our greatest leader on  my blog.

Unfortunately today, words fail me. I cannot find the words to express the admiration I have for this man. All I can say is, what a man. What an incredible man.  Lala ngoxolo tata, uyifezile indima yakho. Lala Mandela omhle.

(Rest in peace Tata, you have played your part, rest beautiful Mandela)

These are some photo’s I took at the Mandela residence in Houghton today. While I was walking up the road three boys walked towards the Mandela house. As we walked passed one another, the one asked “are there a lot of people there by Madiba’s place?” I told  him there were. Then he raised his flowers and said “Will they allow me to leave these?” Of course they will, I told him.

I wish I had gone back with him, to see him put those flowers down. Of all the tributes that have poured in all over the world today, this moment will stay with me forever. Just a young boy, who wanted to put three flowers down for the greatest man to have ever lived