Dear Black Township Kid, the world might have given up on us, we might be filling most of the prison cells in our country than classrooms, we might be burying more of people than celebrating their lives, we might have nothing to eat, to wear or to hope for- but, we can at least dare to be great. Dare to make townships more than a place of lost hope but a place of young people going somewhere great.
I have lived all my life going to bed and hoping to wake up the next day, hoping that each day will be better than the other. I wish my pillow could narrate the dreams I had- dreams not to become an archetype of a poverty stricken teenager from Naledi- an unknown old township in the outskirts of Soweto, Johannesburg. As become older, I realize that dreaming is not enough. Wishful thinking is not enough to make our lives better, to elevate me from being an average young person from Soweto but a better one. The world is not a wish granting factory. It is a world of people who make things happen. It is a dog eat dog world. Survival of the fittest.
In the past twenty years I have lived, I witnessed young people who have everything possible to make them amazing people, fall into the “Township Syndrome”. The “Township Syndrome” is the: we go to school to become improve the situation at home but peer pressure and crappy living standards define and get the better of us; it is the cause of many young girls falling pregnant at an early age and their lives get stuck, it is the resorting to crime because no one can feed us and our hungry family, it is the “I will not go to school today because there is a house party going on and if I don’t attend it my reputation will go down the drain” syndrome. This syndrome is the cause of many young people like myself becoming run-of-the-mill lives.
I will be honest, it is not easy being black and growing up in the township. We have to work twice as hard as everybody else. When we get opportunities that other kids who are from posh and affluent backgrounds, we need to make it seem like we did not earn that opportunity out of pity but through our hard work. In university, we need to achieve twice as hard because we might lose that financial aid and a kid from a rich background with mediocre grades will be able to pay for our place and take it for themselves. We end up going back to our shacks, four roomed houses and other places that put a roof on top of our heads and we are labelled “township failures”. In as much this seems like an obstacle, I want to tell you township kid like myself, that you can make it. It is an admirable trait about you that no one can take away. You are a hard worker, and if you don’t do it right- black kids will never be taken serious.
We cannot be ones who will be hit by type II “Township Syndrome.” We owe our success to our communities. I owe my prospective success to the young people of Molapo, Pimville and Naledi – all the townships I have called home. Type II Township Syndrome is one that is self-centred. One that does not want to help others. It is being average and selfish. If we cannot help our brothers and sisters, who will? Who will help get their kids to school? Who will rescue them to from the syndrome that is wiping tarred, dirty and talent crowded streets empty?
We cannot be a generation of townshippers who will seat around and do nothing.
The world needs hungry young people like yourself. Stop fantasizing about the future; do something about it. It is really good to imagine yourself living in that mansion with a large pool, driving the latest car and walking into sky scrapping office and waiting to take on the world. That should push you. It should push you to seek opportunities and take full advantage of them.
We need to break the cycle. We cannot be a generation that complains about the government and does nothing about that. We have to take matters into our own hand. If needs be, we must hold banners to the sky and fight for what is rightfully ours. Even more, we can do something that does require the government.
Don’t let the Township Syndrome kill your dreams!