Out of the matchbox
By Zonke Mpotulo
“I come from Langa in Cape Town and went to one of the feeder schools for LEAP. I attended afternoon maths and science lessons and went on a LEAP camp and then started at LEAP 1 in 2005. I felt that most of the time I didn’t fit in with my community. You had to go out clubbing and drinking but I came from a home where I wasn’t allowed to do that. I felt left out, I didn’t have friends and I was confused about who I was.
There wasn’t any real hope. I wanted to go to varsity but very few in my community go there so my life was planned out – I would go to school, then high school and end up drinking in the street like many of the other girls in my community. In the township there are a whole lot of patterns and cycles that get repeated and repeated. You feel like you live in a matchbox and that’s the only world you know.
Going to LEAP took me out of the matchbox. For the first time I realised I had a choice, I had options. LEAP showed show me a different way of living – that I could be a role model, have friends and live a healthy life. Going to varsity became a reality rather than a dream.
The first time in my life that I was ever asked how I feel was at LEAP. I couldn’t answer because, for the first time, I had to stop surviving and start living. My life in the township was all about survival. At LEAP, you are able to feel what you are feeling and take responsibility for it.
When I entered LEAP, I was living with my mom and my grandmother had just passed away so I didn’t have a strong parenting foundation. I last saw my father when I was nine and I don’t know what happened to him. So I saw John [Gilmour] and Fozia as parent figures. We fought a lot but they always kept the door open. No matter how much I fought with them and disappointed them, they showed me love. They showed me what love is: it is not to give up on each other. That’s why I wanted to become a teacher because I wanted to give kids from Langa like me that chance to feel love.
The power of voice
Through the LEAP Future Leaders Programme I now have a degree and I can celebrate the young woman that I am today. I am doing honours in education management, teaching and sitting on the management team at LEAP 6 in Ga-Rankuwa. Whatever career I decide to do, I plan to be in the classroom in some way. My long, long dream is to open a debate and public speaking school in the township. Debating gives you so much confidence; it allows you to travel and see the world. I want to open an academy to debate our history and teach our young people to speak truth to power and the power of voice.
I am really grateful to have been part of this opportunity. I understand now what my role is in my community and my country. Because of that, I am able to own that I am an agent of change. If every LEAP student can leave school knowing this then LEAP will have done its job. My plan at LEAP 6 is to help every child have a clear vision of what their role is in this country”.
Zonke is in the leadership team and teaches English and Life Orientation LEAP 6 (Ga-Rankuwa), Gauteng.