Out of the matchbox – full interview
Zonke Mpotulo, LEAP graduate, English teacher and member of the management team at LEAP 6 spoke to us for the LEAP Annual Report 2012, saying that going to LEAP took her out of the ‘matchbox’ of township life and changed her expectations of the future. Here is the full interview with this inspirational young woman.
I come from Langa in Cape Town and went to Zimasa Primary which is 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 in Grade 10 because Zimasa only went up to Grade 9.
I wasn’t the outside type of person. I felt that most of the time I didn’t fit in with the community. You had to go clubbing and drinking but I came from a home where I wasn’t allowed to do that but I wanted to fit in. That’s what the community expected of me. I felt left out and didn’t have friends and I was confused about who I was.
In my schooling, there wasn’t any real hope. I wanted to go to university 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 the other girls.
In the township there are a whole lot of patterns and circles that get repeated and repeated. You feel like you live in a matchbox – that’s the only world you know.
OUT OF THE MATCHBOX
Joining LEAP took me out of the matchbox. For the first time I realized I had a choice, I had options. It opened my eyes and showed me a different way of living: be a role model; have friends; live a healthy life.
Going to university was a reality rather than a dream – you can’t go to LEAP and not go to university.
When I entered LEAP I was only living with my mom, my grandmother 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 John (Gilmour) and the other teachers became parent figures. 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: not to give up on each other.
That’s why I wanted to become a teacher because I wanted to give kids like me that chance to feel love. The first time I was asked how I feel was at LEAP in Grade 10. 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 feel what you are feeling and take responsibility for it.
My home situation was a big challenge – I grew up too quickly and took on too much responsibility. My mother got sick and I had to look after her. At LEAP now, I’m only 23 but I sit in staff meetings and management meetings with people who are much older than me but I must still be 23 and not take on everything. So it is about balancing all of that.
My biggest achievement is being able to get to where I am today, get a degree and do Honours but also being able to celebrate the young person that I am today. Being able to share that and activate that amongst the young people that I deal with.
My long, long dream is to open a debate and public speaking school in the township to give young people confidence and the chance to travel and see the world. In the township, this is seen as a white thing. I want our young people to speak out and help them have the power of voice.
I’m 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.
That’s my plan at LEAP 6 (Ga-Rankuwa): for every child to have a clear vision of what their role is in this country.