Veritas, by Lindani Mchunu.

I have always spoken about the privileged life I have lived. I don’t go into much detail, but when I tell you that I come from a privileged background I really mean it. It has only been apparent to me, just how privileged my life has been during the past four years in my tenure as the Academy manager.

I was so privileged that when I was in varsity I didn’t know there was such a thing as the National Student Financial Aid Scheme. My life was beyond privilege and to me it was normal, my parents were qualified professionals and I had watched my father work his way out of poverty to an affluent life. I knew my experiences were not the same as my cousins from the township, but I just thought it’s because their parents didn’t work hard enough.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. Meritocracy as I have come to learn is a pipe dream. The world stopped recognizing people for their value a long time ago, if it ever did for that matter. The world recognizes people for their allegiance to and proximity to power and their influence thereof. One climbs the ladder of life in accordance with one’s eligibility to maneuver all three levers; allegiance, proximity and influence. Power is the ultimate privilege. Everything that one is required to achieve from a very young age, is merely preparation for one to get as close to power as possible. There are exceptions of course to every rule, but that is all they are, exceptions.

On the 22nd of August the Academy had its inaugural graduation, this time we were celebrating the achievement of those learners who were part of the TETA programme, which ran over 2 years benefiting in total, thirty students. An interesting fact, it costs about R78 000 a year to train and upskill one student in our Academy and they only come once a week. We worked out that it’s more expensive than most of our country’s top private schools and universities. Yet those learners in private schools and universities definitely get more out of their education than any of our learners and definitely have more opportunities waiting for them.

Click here to see the photo gallery of the day.

You may be wondering why the price is so high. Well, boats are expensive to maintain as you know, but more than that we have to provide transport, we have to provide food, we have to provide everything else that would afford someone coming from a home with absolutely nothing, the opportunity to be part of our academy.

To have both parents in life is a privilege, for both of them to be educated professionals is a privilege, to travel and expand your mind is a privilege, to not worry about student loans is a privilege, to live in an environment that is loving and warm and secure is a privilege. To inherit all that by just being born is probably the greatest lottery ticket one can win. I inherited all of that. All of it.

It has been my interaction and engagement with these young people in the Academy that made me aware of just how privileged my life has been. It has humbled me as a person to the very core of my being. I am no longer the same in so many ways. Yet it has also made me realize that one cannot claim to understand something one has not been in direct contact with on a regular basis.

The graduation on Saturday was amazing, we had learners who have been with the Academy for five years now.  Young ladies who arrived as a group of 18 in 2016 and only three of them were still present. I admired their grit, for sticking it out for so long, coming from a background where sailing should be the least of their concerns. Statistics recently released in Gauteng say that in the last 12 months, 23000 teenage pregnancies have been recorded by the Department of Health, of that number 1000 teenage pregnancies were from youth between the ages of 10-14.

That is the reality of what girls have to face in the township, their bodies are under siege. Where are their parents? Where is the safety net? Gangsters, crime, corrupt police, drugs, alcoholism, unemployment, single parent households, HIV etc.  Somewhere in the middle of all that, their parents are trying to survive. I have not worked my way up the ladder sufficiently to have a meeting with our President and to ask the simple question of “when”.  When will it be enough, how many have to perish before it’s enough? Then pose the next question, “how much” suffering justifies real action? I don’t know when I will ever be able to have this private conversation with power, if nothing else, then just for my own sanity. Looking into the abyss has its drawbacks, it takes something from you, the very thing we protect our children from, innocence.

Yet I remain positive because I saw on Saturday that a few people can make a difference.  Some of our Academy students have gained employment during the course of our programme. What we need, I have come to find, is a few more people who can commit themselves to change just one life. I cannot stress enough how important this work is, I cannot impress upon you enough, how important a role this club can play. Apathy, indifference, this is the ultimate sickness of society.  Governments and politicians live off our apathy and indifference.  They maintain their power through the revolving door of poverty, making promises at every election and like playing the lotto, the masses always believe it could be their turn. If only they knew what the odds of winning a lotto ticket are in real terms, perhaps they wouldn’t be so easily enticed.

The missing link in our Club, are the members and the youth of the Academy actually meeting and having a conversation. On both sides there are unanswered questions, “who are you” “where do you live” “how are you” “who are your people” “what are your dreams”. These questions posed on both sides would erode slowly that veneer of insulation we all suffer from. There are a lot of problems in this country we all love so much, some of them are so daunting it’s easier to just look the other way. If we don’t do something, one day looking the other way will no longer be possible, because the only view that will be possible is the abyss.

I was never this vocal about such things, until this academy impacted my life, to be exact until these young people did. Their plight made me realize I could never walk away from this and be able to say I didn’t see what I saw, it would haunt me wherever I go. What did you do about it Lindani. What did you do about what I showed you? That would be the lingering question. So here I am, with very little knowledge about this landscape, I am doing my part, and my part in total is about convincing government and the private sector to spend their money on the youth of this province.

I beg, I plead, I write proposals and give presentations, I charm and cajole, I manipulate and influence. What more can be done? Well so much more. I am pleading with you, those of you that read this newsletter, do something, anything, most importantly I am pleading with you to meet these kids, chat with them and tell them your story, then allow them to tell theirs. I have no doubt in my mind that if we can get it right here in this Club, we will find a purpose that will take this institution to the stratosphere.

Thank you to all who attended our graduation ceremony, thank you to TETA who believed in our programme and supported us. Thank you to the committee that puts its weight behind me. Thank you to Sibu Sizatu our senior instructor who has managed to train so many kids without a single injury.  You are a gem man and thank you to Jennifer Burger my Anchor. We have an Academy Centre that we want to build, a Centre that will be a place where all youth can congregate, socialize, learn and feel a sense of belonging within our Club. I am looking for funding everywhere for this Centre.  We have a Rio campaign that we must accomplish.  I am currently pushing government to give me more funding so that we can take more learners. Support us where you can. You may not see what I see. All I ask of you is to have a little hope. Have hope that our course is true, our crew is capable and our boat will get us there…

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