Showing posts from March, 2011

another form of disempowerment

[this was first published in the Daily Dispatch on March 19 2011 with the title "Pregnant girls have faces, names and aspirations"]

MUCH to my surprise, I have become a Facebook and an Internet fanatic, I thrive on instant messaging, occasionally I use Mxit with my sister and I have a blog which all means I have access to the modern world through words, sharing and understanding my experiences through reading and writing.
However, I have a friend I cannot send an SMS to, she’s not on Facebook or Mxit let alone reading my blog. Not because she’s not keen on social networks or technology, but because she can’t read and write.

I met “Zandile” when she was in Grade 9 and she told me she couldn’t read and write.
She had a baby the following year when she was 18.
She considered an abortion so she could carry on with school, but she changed her mind. At age 19, registered at the time as a Grade 10 pupil, she dropped out of school at the insistence of her grandmother because “she was…

black women's work

If you live on the right side of town and have the right kind of employment or are fortunate enough to be a student, living in Rhini-Grahamstown has its perks in spite of the scorn it suffers because it’s so small: everything is in walking distance, there’s endless access to the internet and I personally enjoy being able to sit under a tree at the Bot gardens reading and feeling like I’m adding value to the world because being a Masters student means reading endlessly!

But if you’re not in a privileged position in Rhini and you’re a black woman, life does not seem so blissful. With an unemployment rate over 80%, the inequalities are tangible in Rhini, it’s not something I read in a book. I am often declining offers from women who are offering to come clean my flat as domestic workers for a pittance so they can support their families. These women spent their days moving from digs to digs cleaning for students who can afford to pay them what they spend on airtime on a daily basis perhaps…

Tertiary institutions are not islands of goodwill

THERE are unwritten rules in all institutions. Some can be as simple and non-threatening as “don’t park in the boss’s parking bay” or “don’t sit in so-and-so’s chair in the staff-room”, but others can be malevolent and damaging as “don’t talk about sexual harassment, it’s your personal issue”.

The reports on the Walter Sisulu University “sex-for-marks” scandal[about 2 weeks ago] have received much attention as some students dared to break the rules about keeping quiet on this issue. But I can’t help but wonder, why are we so surprised?
Are we surprised that there are people who possibly abuse power in tertiary institutions or are we surprised that someone spoke up in spite of the potential complexities of the cases?

The reports have zoned in on various issues: the claims and demands made by the students involved as well as the student body, the defence from the lecturers, the university’s response to the scandal and more students coming forward with their stories after a period of tim…

the poor little rich girl

I am an urban kid who has been raised on tarred roads, electricity and running water and the occasional use of a public transport system that works in spite of rude taxi drivers (I mastered the art of being able to walk everywhere for much of my time of growing up in East London CBD). I have no conception of what it is like to grow up in a village and we moved from the township when I was very young. I do not know what it means to arrive at school with no teachers to teach and no-one to account this to. I have no idea what it means to go to school where there is no water or basic infrastructure. I have never had to share one textbook amongst a classroom or peers or have no textbook at all. And I definitely do not know what it means to ward off any sexual advances from male teachers for special favours in the classroom.

But for a period in my life I was exposed to the worst of urban poverty after my family was evicted from our home in the suburbs in 1994. For complex reasons, my parent…