Beyond the walls of Nkandla, the long walk goes on

The president of our country lives in a bubble. The bubble is called Nkandla. It’s comfortable. It’s equipped with a fire pool for who knows what, and other excessive and unnecessary amenities paid for with taxpayers’ money. He’s a free man, so consumed by his delusions of grandeur that he takes liberties he really shouldn’t.

Meanwhile, just outside the luxurious Nkandla compound to which Zuma probably travels back and forth in an expensive vehicle kitted out with air conditioning and heated seats for those chilly days, school children are travelling, on foot, for up to four hours a day to get an education.

A return trip of 28km to access a basic human right is no joke, and it is not fair. It spits in the face of government policies and the Constitution. But then Zuma is no stranger to this kind of behaviour – not when it comes to education, and not when it comes to failed delivery on several other things promised for the betterment of this country and those who need it most.

When I considered their journey and the challenges these children face daily, I was confronted with the thought that I might have quit if faced with the same problem.

But that’s easy to say when you already have an education, when that education has allowed you to take advantage of opportunities and helped you further your economic standing, making access to basic needs an almost involuntary thing. I don’t ever have to think about infrastructure, safety or a flushing toilet. Zuma, even less so.


But these children are driven. They are more dedicated and more diligent than Zuma could ever be, even if he woke up tomorrow as a different version of himself. But, to be honest, I don’t even think a transformation into someone like Mahatma Gandhi would change him.

How do those children continue to fuel their inspiration? How do they manage to wake up at three in the morning, to leave by four, start their journey, and still run the risk of being late for school, often missing some of their morning classes?

Zuma is probably having his best morning stretch by the time those kids are sprinting the last few metres of what’s left of their trek.

Their fire is kept burning by hope. The hope for freedom – freedom from the fringe towns they live in, towns with few resources and opportunities; opportunities they hope to receive once they receive an education.

They aren’t receiving lessons about how to fish, they aren’t waiting around for someone to hand it to them; they’re teaching themselves, every day, so they can feed their families and feed themselves.

If there isn’t a textbook for this, they’re in the process of writing it. Maybe Zuma should grab a page and start reading – he, an Olympic gold medallist in gladly accepting handouts, or just grabbing them at will.

Perhaps Zuma should face head on the struggle for freedom through education that these pupils face every day.

And, if he does visit, perhaps he should walk there.

Haji Mohamed Dawjee filed this week’s column from Nquthu in KwaZulu-Natal, where the Mail & Guardian is shooting a documentary on transport for school pupils.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Students, we will need your critical thinking after the Covid-19 hard reset

Economically disadvantaged students suffer most from disrupted education, but they also have the most to contribute to lessening inequality when we build the new normal

The unbearable sadness of lockdown

Loneliness can seem like a hopeless hole that increases anxiety, depression, fears or thoughts of suicide

Now is the time for true innovation in education and the economy

Because of the government’s indecisiveness, we have missed the boat on charting new territory for learning

Miss Rona’s teaching the 4IR lessons

Schooling is stuck in the 1950s, but technology must be blended with the basics of education

Editorial: ANC, stop hurting our country

The ANC either does not understand the best interests of those it was elected to serve — or it knows and doesn’t care

KwaZulu-Natal is emerging as a new Covid-19 epicentre

Large groups attending funerals and people delaying being tested and treated because they fear dying in hospital has contributed to a spike in coronavirus infections in KZN
Advertising

Jailed journalist a symbol of a disillusioned Zimbabwe

Hopewell Chin’ono backed President Emmerson Mnangagwa when he succeeded Robert Mugabe. Now he’s in jail

Sisulu axes another water board

Umgeni Water’s board in KwaZulu-Natal was appointed irregularly by her predecessor, the water and sanitation minister claims
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday