During a debate programme at PASCAP’s Hout Bay centre, I asked the learners who agreed with the statement that education is the key to future success. Almost every single learner raised their hand. One learner explained her response by saying, “You can’t do anything without it.” These learners, like me, believe that education has the power to heal, grow, and empower.
I came to South Africa this summer because I was curious about the differences and similarities between the legacy institutionalized and legalized racism has had on the South African and American education systems. In both the United States and South Africa, the creators of segregation and apartheid policies purposely and maliciously stripped schools serving black and brown children of resources as a way to suppress those groups. Nevertheless, in both countries, some of the most significant resistance against such oppressive practices involved schools and students. Take for example the Soweto Uprising in South Africa and Brown v. Board of Education in the States. Schools have been a central pawn in movements of oppression as well as liberation efforts.
In the United States, the education system remains remarkably segregated, and black and brown students continue to be systematically denied access to quality resources and, in turn, are denied quality education. During my time in South Africa, I have witnessed that, similar to the US, educational access is drawn along racial lines, which is blatantly unjust and holds serious implications for learners from marginalised racial groups.
I chose to work for PASCAP Trust because of their recognition of this issue and apparent dedication to marginalised youth. PASCAP recognizes the absolutely crucial role of education in a child’s life. The programming the organisation puts on for learners reveals that their definition of education is broad and includes knowledge from any area that can enrich a learner’s life from art and drama to sexual health. As an intern, I had the privilege of facilitating an acting programme – to encourage collaboration between learners, develop their writing and creative skills, and build their confidence in public speaking – as well as a debate programme – for learners to practice developing and articulating a well-thought out argument and encourage learners to respectfully consider perspectives and opinions different from their own.
During both programmes, the learners’ creativity, optimism, honesty, and energy shone. The same was true when learners made vision boards during an introspection workshop. To represent their dreams for their futures, learners included images that represented their dream careers which ranged from professional soccer player to doctor to social worker. During another exercise, I asked them how they wanted to be remembered. Almost every learner mentioned their kindness and willingness to help others. Their answers reminded me about what’s so important about youth: full of limitless potential, youth are truly the hope for the future. As a result, I was also reminded about why I want to dedicate my life to dismantling and restructuring systems that prevent youth of disadvantaged backgrounds from receiving a quality education. I saw examples of the level of dedication I aspire to in the inspirational and diligent employees of PASCAP who have devoted their lives to this struggle as well. So, thank you to those who opened their doors and arms to me these past few weeks. You captured my heart, stretched my mind, and reignited my passion for educational equity.
Finally, a huge thank you to the hilarious, intelligent, and talented learners I had the privilege to work with, the dedicated facilitators, and hardworking employees at PASCAP.