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My Jobless Life

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Naysayers & Dream killers

I recently had an incident that should have made me feel bad, it should have made me angry, it should have made me doubt myself, but I decided not to give in to the usual drama. I decided not to give the dream killers of the world the satisfaction of allowing their slights and jealousy to threaten the good thing I have going for myself.

When I say I want my life to live and not to answer to someone else’s agenda, people assume a lot about me. Some of it true, yet mostly they couldn’t fathom the pressure that comes with taking as much responsibility for your life as you can. People think that when I say that I don’t want a job because I don’t want to work, it must mean that I, childishly, only want to do what I like. The latter part would be the part that’s true. Yet, living life beyond other people’s definition of what it should be and having to draw meaning and purpose from yourself instead of a societal role, is damn hard and anything but childish

The naysayers of this world are also known as family and friends, well-meaning, but the worst kind of people to have around you when you decide not to conform.  They presume to know you, so family have already painted a picture of who you are and they will cling to that image stubbornly. What kind of love and care measures the image of who you think a person is as greater than who the person themselves desires to be? It’s easy to gather the criticisms, doubts and opposition of those closest to you under the heading ‘Love and concern’, but I don’t swallow it that easily anymore. I have 3 children and I don’t understand why I should stand in the way of their desires for their lives. I don’t understand that brand of love and care at all.

 

Family and friends are there to comfort you when things go wrong. They help you through the tough times and they encourage you in their own way. But people on the whole have a smaller dream planned for you than you have for yourself. The more dependent a person becomes on the support, opinions and approval of others the smaller your dreams have to be. Has no one ever wondered why so many success stories start out with dire family situations which the person has to rise above? I’m not discounting the value of close friends and family wholesale, but in some ways their love and support is an insidious motivation for failure or at least an unremarkable life.

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Those who are step above you, or at least feel that they are, I’ve found to be the best dream killers the world can produce. I seem to run into them all the time. They make the mistake everyone seems to make about everyone else, they think I want what they now have. Well, hello, how did you figure that one out? Dream killers have an intense desire to keep you beneath their station in life. When some people recognise your abilities they mostly do one of two things; or if they’re really slick, both. One they try to use it to their own benefit. Or they try to sabotage your progress to minimize or eliminate you as a threat.

Some dream killers don’t want you to have what they know they can’t. They have their ways and means of making you think you don’t have what it takes, but the truth is they’re talking about themselves. They are the ones who blatantly say that going after your dream is attempting to be superior to who you’re meant to be. They tell to you stop thinking you’re more intelligent than anyone else, when all you were thinking is that you’re intelligent. They ask why you hang around reading books from the library when you can have a secure job that pays slave wages. “Young women like you should be working; especially when you have children,” they say. They tell you to stop doing things that are meant for people much better than you, like being a writer. They try to guilt you into being as small as they are, anything else is hogging the limelight according to them. They’re also the first ones to start sucking up to you when they think you have bit of power or influence that could benefit them. They’re the ones who give medical diagnoses because someone in their family is a doctor. The very ones who told the doctor to become a mechanic or a plumber; the dream killers.

I’m not an adversarial person, I generally don’t get caught up in moaning about how difficult life is and how I need to be cut some slack. Yet, every so often one cannot help but conclude that some people seem to have a vested interest in seeing you fail. Some people appear to derive some strange pleasure from your misfortunes, especially if they’re the reason for those misfortunes.

I’m not one to waste much of my time on those who don’t like me, but it doesn’t mean I’m unaware of them or that my silence means they are getting the better of me. You don’t have to agree with me; just stand aside and do your own thing. You can be sure that I will be.

 

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Preserving the heritage of Promosa Secondary

There has been a lot of speculation about the future of Promosa Secondary and the teaching medium the school will be employing in future. Recent interaction on Facebook inflamed some tempers, mine included, that Afrikaans might be done away with as a language of instruction. The two Coloured schools in Promosa are the only ones outside the traditional white suburbs where Afrikaans is both the home language and the medium used for education. Coloured people in Promosa now feel as if their language and heritage is being side-lined in a school standing right on their doorsteps.

The influx of learners who don’t have Afrikaans has a home language saw the inclusion of English, making the school a double medium institution. Many of the new pupils and teachers use Setswana as a home language. This has created a situation where it has become an unofficial supplemental language of instruction. Poor academic results have also added to the concerns the community have about the future of the school.

The community has found very little sympathy from the Department of Education (DOE) regarding their concerns about the use of language. Conflict ensued when the candidate preferred by the community, Godly Burrel, had to stand back for the government selected principal. Promosa has since adjusted and accommodated the current head of the school, Pelesa Mafisa.

The Potch I grew up in had barriers between White and Non-white, but those divisions were far less rigid between Black and Coloured. The residents of Ikageng and Promosa had a shared communal history prior to apartheid policy being instituted. I recall a home-town where everyone who spoke Afrikaans could greet and say a few phrases in vernacular and vice versa. I’m from a town where family ties remained strong despite being stretched by a policy where members of the same clan could be classified under different races. Being considered both Black and Coloured the home I lived in Afrikaans was generously enhanced by Setswana and English. The Potch I know has always been a mixture of Coloured and Black culture and its languages.

At its core the school’s problem is not a race or language issue, but the drop in education standards that the whole of South Africa is experiencing. The school might advise parents to instil values in their children that aids teaching and that is a fair request. Yet, many parents are disappointed when their children, well-behaved, punctual and appropriately dressed receiving no instruction for months because there is no teacher or textbooks for a certain subject. Race and language would be far less a hot topic if the end result was an orderly school that produces the results Promosa Secondary has always been known for.

The concerns about the future of the school is about the decrease in academic results and the dilapidation that has occurred at Promosa Secondary. The school has lost a proud history of producing results that attracted many out-of-town learners and now struggles with basic discipline and teaching. When representatives of the DOE state that the school is the property of the government not the community and will be run accordingly, it increases the level of anxiety in the community.

The problems now seen at Promosa Secondary are the result of a gradual decline in teaching standards, community participation as well as good parenting. There is no innocent party in the situation.

Those in the community of Promosa who want to preserve their heritage and language have to become more active in community matters and not leave important decisions to be made without their knowledge and participation. The decline in the state of the only Coloured secondary school in Potchefstroom is evidence that this has not been happening. Those who value their Afrikaans, have to teach their children to speak the language properly; schooling will only supplement what is taught at home. Parents also need to show understanding for teachers and schools that are over-crowded but under-staffed and under-resourced.

The government has to realise that it exists because of the people and aren’t above communities. The school belongs to us more than it does the government because it affects what is most precious to us; our children.

There is talk of establishing an alumni club of the schools old pupils to weigh in on school matters; a positive step in the right direction. However it must also be accepted that years of neglect and under-performance will not be rectified in a year or two. At this point the best thing the communities of Promosa and Ikageng can do is become involved in the schooling of their children. If each parent does their bit to ensure their child is effectively educated all the problems the school faces will be greatly reduced.

An edited version of this article appeared in the Northwest Independent Newspaper of 22/10/2015

My Town, A Small Town

IMG_0826 My town used to be considered a barometer for white sentiment in the old South Africa. It used to be judged as being very “verkramp”, meaning bigoted, and some of its past glory still remains. But like most other things in life the view from the outside differs from what insiders see.

Being Black/Coloured in South Africa meant that we were allocated our own little portion of each town. Even if the lines that separated one portion from another were only in the imaginations and town planning maps of those who wanted it to be that way, each portion developed its own identity over the years and my town actually refers to the portion where I live.

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What stands out about my town is the two main activities my co-habitants engage in. One is religion and the other liquor. The contradiction is lost on my fellow townsmen because it has always been this way. It’s hard for the people in my town to believe that a person could choose not to drink and still have no desire to partake in any religion. I just love the way life is so cut and dried in the minds of those I live with.

My town is a place where your character is mostly determined by what your surname is. Great for those with upstanding pedigrees, crappy for those who come from less decent stock. People assume to know the content of your character, your future prospects and your status in societal hierarchy based on what they know of your family. For some it’s hard to break free from history. For others an undeserved bump-up which they struggle to live up to.

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Like most small towns we pride ourselves on our communal spirit. We are always there for each other we say; and it’s true. “There” might be as support in your time of need, or it might be in your private business. That is after all what small towns are best known for, nosy neighbours. Oh we might donate money, or time, or effort when you need us, but we will whisper about you before you’re out of earshot. Mostly because we want you to know that you have done something scandalous and gossip-worthy.

The people of my town love pretending that they just live here, but actually belong in better towns. Everyone actually belongs in Johannesburg, the City of Gold, but by some fluke of circumstance they just can’t get the dust of this horrid little place shaken off their shoes. Having left my town, lived in Johannesburg for 13 years, and had a good life there by any standard, I think a reality check is in order.

Being known in my town is like having money in the bank when living in Jo’burg. “Small-town Famous” is a term that was coined after a visit to my town, I’m sure. The assumption that everyone wants to be known gives my fellow citizens the right to question anyone in depth. The answers of which couldn’t possibly have any relevance in their day to day life, but if you want to be well-known you have to spill your guts.

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My town has long established a way to walk, to talk, to dress, to think, where to appear and when to appear there. Everyone knows what our sentiments and opinions should be, who we should side with, what our ambitions should be and how we must go about conducting our private affairs. It might be many stipulations but the answer to all of these is the same: whatever everyone else is doing.

A burning desire of those in my town is to have a big funeral. You pay for this by attending as many funerals as you can while alive. The question: “Who will attend your funeral if you don’t support the funerals of others?” is meant to strike fear into the heart of any dissident member of my community.

Those who love this burg act as if every feather on every bird flying over the town has been placed in their custody. Sometimes this custodianship extends itself to the grocery cupboards, garden implements, toolboxes, cars, and children of fellow inhabitants. Don’t be surprised if someone you barely know comes and knocks on your door at any time of day asking to use/borrow your lawnmower, mayonnaise, child (to send on an errand) or baking trays. You have very little room to refuse. Remember, you want to build up goodwill for your funeral and not be gossiped about as being stingy. Anyone living near you has unlimited emergency rides booked in your car. Please take note and act accordingly. My neighbour asked the other day what my pottering in the garden was all about. I explained it’s a food garden where I’m growing vegetables. Her response was: “Ooh great! Now I can borrow spinach from you.” Wow!

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The part I have most difficulty with in my town is the unsolicited visit. The drop-in. The head poking through the doorway. The knock when you least want to hear one. And if you don’t answer, the people of my town start calling your name. If you still don’t respond they ask your neighbour where you are. Both the unwanted visitor and neighbour might start calling your name. All that noise to force you out of your unsociable behaviour. The rule now is, always keep the dishes washed because you never know who might come to ask/lend something. Always keep the sitting room in perfect order so you can let your guest in without shame. In fact, make sure your whole house is spic and span by 11 o’clock because anyone might drop in from then on. I can do without uninvited guests; they’re the ones who stay the longest because they have nothing better to do.

My town is a gem and a soft place to fall when the big, big world stops treating us nicely. My town is a family town because most of us stem from a few core lines going back generation before generation. My town will make a space for you even when your ancestry is foreign to us, there’s always room for one more branch on the family tree.

My town is a study in the best and worst of human nature and especially its paradoxes. My town is a concentrated dose of the whole, wide world.

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