I am currently about to start my third year at Amherst College a small liberal arts college in Western Massachusetts in the United States as a Black Studies and Women and Gender Studies double major and German as my language focus. This is a completely different path to the original plan I had in high school, which was to study accounting and eventually become a Chartered Accountant. I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship from the Student Sponsorship Programme (SSP) in high school and SSP played a large role in my being where I am today not only for financial reasons but through help with University applications, career guidance and personal support. SSP also influenced my interest in working with the Center for Community Engagement (CCE) at Amherst College because even though I have a busy schedule as a fulltime student, I think it is important to help out where you can. Once I week I tutor at A Better Chance (ABC) a national programme that takes young boys from disadvantaged backgrounds and puts them in some of the best high schools in America. Every summer, the CCE and other departments at Amherst provide a stipend for students to go to any country in the world and intern with any community-based organization. I wanted to do something in South Africa so that I could be home and still do something productive during my school vacation and more especially work with an organisation with a focus on education and/or youth development. Thankfully we live in a technological age so I just googled the type of organisations I was interested in working with, found IkamvaYouth Gauteng within the Siyakhula Education Foundation, emailed them stating my interest in working with them and the rest is history.
I have to say, for the name SEF has made for itself, the organization is quite small. I expected the Siyakula and IkamvaYouth staff to be more than twenty people but they do not even reach ten. I was really nervous the first day I arrived but I think due to the size of the people working at SEF there is a certain bond shared and I felt comfortable in no time. One of the first chats I had with Andrew Barrett, he told me that with Education in South Africa, however bad you think it is, it is actually much worse. One of the most powerful things he told me though is the fact that 80% of South African schools are basically write-offs and it would make no difference whether they were open or closed. That struck me very much because even though I was raised by my mother as a single parent who was also the only one out of her five siblings with a stable job, I managed to go to one of the best schools in East London, Clarendon High School for girls and passed matric with four distinctions. Sometimes you become very closed off to other environments and don’t realise the extent of the inequalities that exist out there. A country like South Africa that is only in its 17th year of democracy is a great place to study the gender and racial inequalities that exist because seventeen years in not enough time for the results of the restitution policies implemented to be visible.
I attended the IkamvaYouth Careers Indaba today, June 25, 2011 and met the IkamvaYouth students for the first time. I am extremely excited to be working with all of them for the next few weeks and making a difference, however small in their lives