In response to the xenophobic attacks that keep popping up around the country, we publish here a series of articles written by young people, both South African and foreign nationals, sharing their thoughts, impressions and reactions to these events.
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A country filled with the wilderness, the big five, Mount Kilimanjaro and the forever blue shores of Zanzibar and the beautiful Serengeti National Park. But there is more to be learned about this beautiful country’s contribution in helping South Africa during apartheid.
In 1977, the Tanzanian government donated land to establish a college for the many South African children who found themselves in a foreign country due to apartheid and were part of the African National Congress (ANC). The Tanzanian government knew that every child had a right to education and thus didn’t hesitate to donate the necessary resources that later formed the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College (SOMAFCO) in Mazimbu.
“They could analyse their difficulties in shaky English, and discuss the essence of mathematics, as well as socio-economic problems. But all this philosophical and political wisdom flew out of the window when trying to solve the simplest of maths problems”- Carl-Olof Selenius, a secondary school level maths teacher at Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College, who volunteered his time to come and teach in Tanzania from Sweden.
Tanzania opened its doors to educate the children of parents who didn’t even know where their children were, whether they still drew oxygen or were reunited with dust. The learner and teacher experiences were difficult as many of the students couldn’t express themselves in English and neither could their teachers. How do you teach one to hold a pen when they are only experts in holding rifles? How do you teach one that: what you do on the left-hand side must also be done on the other side, when all they have witnessed in their total existence was one side oppressing the other side?
It was difficult for the learners to comprehend the basics of mathematics as most of them had not had the chance to attend primary school education, which would have helped them with the basics of mathematics. Many of them missed home, some too young to be away from their mothers’ bosoms and some could only understand the language of war and never-ending fights between them and a government that wanted nothing to do with them.
“Freedom in our lifetime” was a bitter sweet slogan they chanted daily in a foreign but welcoming land. It was bitter because it seemed like things were getting worse than better in their native land of South Africa. The 1960 Sharpeville massacre had just happened, more innocent blood was fertilising the South African soil. It was sweet because they believed in a better society, a society where skin colour was just skin colour, just the strength of pigmentation in one’s skin, nothing more nothing less.
Thirty-four years after the Sharpeville massacre, South Africa gained its freedom. Everyone was equal under the law. It had the most praised and developed constitution, claiming that every childin South Africa has a right to education, yet migrant students in the country were not allowed education due to not having the proper documentation. Those who were lucky to get basic education wrote their matric but didn’t get their matric results or certificates.
Fast forward to today: How do we as a nation kill young minds filled with creativity, intelligence, innocence and answers just because there isn’t a piece of paper showing their country of origin? Are we quick to forget that we were once in the same situation? That we were not denied education regardless of documentation? Did we really have to wait for twenty-five years into democracy to finally realise that education is the only key that one can use to better their current situation? Was it even necessary for groups such as African Diaspora Forum (ADF- migrants rights group) to be formed for us to listen?
Let us never forget the countries that opened to us during our darkest days. Let’s be there for them in times of their needs.