Born Free

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By Achmat Kazie, TSiBA Financial Manager

I vaguely remember the morning of 11 February 1990 except that all the adults around me at the time were fixated on the television for most of day. Living in Mitchell’s Plain, many people did not have a television set and close neighbors came over to witness the birth of our democracy with Nelson Mandela walking out of Victor Verster prison a free man.

I do remember the excitement on everyone’s faces while they were discussing the potential that the future holds and also the sadness in remembering those that were lost in the fight for freedom. I was told by my father that the world has been opened up to me and I would not be limited by the colour of my skin but only by my own desire. If only this was true.

I was twelve years old when Nelson Mandela was released but the excitement of this momentous occasion was short-lived as within four months, on a misty May morning, my father was taken away from us in a horrific accident. Suddenly my 29 year old mother, with only a primary school education was the sole provider to four demanding boys, aged 12, 10, 8 and 6, and a three year old daughter.

As my world came crashing down around me, I could not see this bright future that was envisaged for me just a few months earlier. While my mother had support from her family in assisting her through this difficult time, I hold her in the highest regard in being able to raise five children mostly on her own. I remember helping her with my younger brother’s homework, watching her trying to understand mathematical equations that she had never seen before but not letting us pick up that as much as she was teaching us, we were teaching her even more.

1994, came and I came to understand much more of our turbulent history. I remember the lines at the voting station on that cool autumn morning in April as many people, friends and family, casted their vote in our country’s first democratic election. Unlike the vague memories from 1990, I clearly remember sitting up at night as the counting started and the results started to trickle in. I remember our president standing at the Union building being sworn in as our first democratically elected president. My hope that had been lost four years earlier was reborn on this day.

While I was born before 1994 and not considered as a “Born Free”, I have no memory of what life under apartheid was like. I find it hard to relate to the older generation and the obstacles that they had to overcome. What I do know is that the effects of apartheid was not reversed on that morning in February 1990. The effects of an inferior education system did not suddenly give my mother the skills and knowledge to be employed in normal employment in order to give her children a proper university education.

After the inauguration of Nelson Mandela, the circumstances of those born after this day to parents that bore the brunt of apartheid did not change. Many believe that we should move on as we have addressed the past but my belief is that it will take at least another two generations befor all children born in this country will have an equal opportunity. How can you today say to a 19 year old from the Cape Flats, whose 50 year old father with a Bantu education, earning a pittance and doing manual labor, that he should not be the same as a 19 year old white teenager from the suburbs. While there are many people of colour that achieved great things in the face of extreme adversity and improved their lot in life, the number of people that still find themselves in these difficult circumstances are even far greater.

I do believe that the current government has failed in the education system. With this “Born Free” generation only coming into the tertiary education system now, I believe an organisation such as TSiBA Education who provides full tuition scholarships to study for a university degree is pivotal in leading this generation in creating a better future for this beautiful country. Entrepreneurship and small businesses is the way to create employment and grow the economy. The Bachelor in Business Administration degree offered by TSiBA is a fully accredited three year degree with a focus on entrepreneurship through practical and experiential learning.

Having grown up without much opportunities, I am passionate about the work being done by this wonderful organisation and the people that makes this a reality from the bubbly Feziwe at reception to the sometimes serious, sometimes funny CEO, Adri. I have grown so much as the Financial Manager of TSiBA Education over the last two years and I am as passionate about it now as I was when I first started.

Growing up on the Cape Flats was not easy, but through hard work and family support I did not allow myself to be tempted into a life of crime, drugs and gangsterism. My achievements in life are in spite of the difficulties I faced and not as a direct result of the abolishment of apartheid. My children will one day however truly be able to say that they are “Born Free”.

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