As a 33-year-old journalist living and working in South Africa I am not oblivious to the country’s issues. But I’m a hopeless romantic and I love Mzansi and I wouldn’t live anywhere else.
Many of my peers are talking about how there’s nothing to celebrate on Youth Day.
Let me explain why I disagree. Let me share my story. Let me show you what South Africa has done for me.
I am a village girl, born to a single mother who only completed her matric after the birth of her fourth child in 1988.
The odds were not in my mother’s favour, but that didn’t stop her. She fought till she had her teaching diploma and sent all her children to university with the very little she had. She believed education would save us as much as it had saved her.
And it did. My mother managed to buy a black and white TV when I was 12, and that became my English teacher.
I am that girl who learned English at age 12, who drew water from the local pump and carried it on my head, did our laundry at the river and played till my skin blended with the dusty streets.
Being from a rural village in Limpopo, our schools were crowded and teachers did what they could, yet my public school education was still enough to get me into university.
My siblings and I went to university using NSFAS. But from there it was up to me if I would shrink into myself because of my background or rather rise to the challenge and show that I was more than just a village girl.
Mom would send the little she could for food and we did other people’s hair for extra cash. We completed our diplomas and were fortunate enough to get jobs not too long after.
But I am also the same girl who has had incredible opportunities in her life because of the free education that Mzansi has afforded me.
I am an award-winning content creator, one of the youngest digital editors ever in Mzansi, managing to transition traditional print clients into the digital space when the internet and social media exploded in South Africa. I have worked with global tech giants and had strategies applauded at international industry events attended by such names as Spike Lee.
I had come a long way from learning my ABCs from a black and white TV in Limpopo, to teaching the ABCs of the tech industry to global clients.
I can’t help but be hopeful.
And that’s what the collective efforts of my country, community, my mother, her support system, my older siblings and everyone’s sacrifices have done for me.
Imagine the future our kids could have if we are driven to give them the best we can – if we gave them a curiosity about learning and expose them to as much as we can so they have better choices.
We may never agree about celebrating the heroes of the past but if we look at people like Thuso Mbedu and Nthabeleng Likotsi, we have new heroes and they are the youth and they are very much worthy of celebrating.
And so are you – for all the hard work you put in to elevate yourself and your lineage.
Happy Youth Day and cheers to you, the youth of today – the ones who don’t sink down into the abyss of their problems – but soar because they know there’s so much at stake. You are the heroes.