SLICE OF LIFE: Students suffering in silence

I had taken my fifth consecutive loss for the week. Nothing was going right, none of the stories I was working on for the week were coming together. This was about four months ago. I was failing to accomplish my deliverables for that week. As I sit here reminiscing, I’m reminded how student life can show you flames. By the second block of your first year you’ve already felt the burn. Now imagine feeling that sting while you are homeless and hungry at the same time. This is a reality confronting many students at Wits.

After realising that nothing was coming together, I decided to take a camera and walk around campus in hope that a good story would miraculously appear and I would be safe for the week. Instead I sat on the stairs near International House under the jacaranda trees, contemplating the decision of why I took this route, questioning whether this path was meant for me or not after my third failed interview for the week. Everyone has a bad week, some more than others. As I sat there deep in thought a young lady approached me, she was very timid and spoke very softly. She asked me if I could please give her something to eat for lunch. I could have said, that I don’t have anything, and walked away like I often do. The truth is that I did not have anything, I had left my wallet and lunch in the newsroom at University Corner. I directed her to the Wits Community Citizenship Outreach (WCCO), at that time I was working on a story about the soon to be launched Masidleni Lunch Meal programme.

Masidleni now provides warm meals for hundreds of students a day. The young woman was not aware of the WCCO offices and services they offered to students in need. When I urged her to collect a food parcel she simply replied “I won’t be able to cook the food because I do not have a place to stay”. On the other hand, she needed something instant because she had not had anything to eat that entire day. She was homeless because she had not received financial aid for this academic year and therefore could not find appropriate accommodation. At this point she was living and sleeping wherever she could.

Sleeping in the libraries and computer labs, washing in the campus toilets and being anxious about where the next meal is going to come from, is an everyday reality for some students. You do not realise that some of the students that you sit next to in lectures and on the bus are actually suffering in silence.

I offered to help her with her laundry however she was reluctant saying she did not want to over burden a stranger. It wasn’t a burden. I told her that it is important for us as students to look after one another. Being a student is not a joyride, we’re confronted by so many personal, academic and financial challenges. We need to assist one another to make this journey less difficult and more bearable.

No student should be without a meal and a place to sleep after a long and taxing day of trying to fulfil their academic expectations. I urge you to help wherever you can, share if you have plenty. Being hungry and homeless is dehumanizing and people are scared to share their stories of suffering. Speak to the person sitting next to you on the bus, you never know how making “small talk” could help someone else or even you.

We all want to realise the dream of becoming successful graduates but we’ve all witnessed that the journey is filled with obstacles – we need one another.

SLICE OF LIFE: All the women inside of me are tired

 

Last week I spent three days in court for a reporting assignment. The assignment exposed me to more than I had mentally prepared for.

Three out of the seven cases I listened to were criminal cases on murder and rape charges. This meant sitting one bench away from somebody who had allegedly raped or killed (or both), a woman or had been found guilty of doing so.

Hearing the details of murders and experiences of rape victims during cross-examination and trials left me shook. The victims were an ex-girlfriend, wife or woman who knew the accused.

I couldn’t comprehend or accept that these were actual occurrences. Two of the men accused of rape and murder didn’t fit the image of what I had thought a murderer would look like. The first, arrived with a branded track suit, clean shaven and seemed unshaken, while the second individual who had been charged with four counts of rape, attempted murder and kidnapping arrived in a fitted suit.

The only reminders that these individuals had allegedly committed crimes were the chains on their ankles. As much as it didn’t feel real while I listened to the court cases, it started affecting my day-to-day interactions thereafter because it is now difficult to encounter a man who I don’t know without questioning their motives.

With the upsurge and current spotlight on gender-based violence following the death of Karabo Mokoena, Nosipho Mandleleni and numerous unnamed victims, the rise in females speaking out on their experiences on social media has made it overwhelming to be a female. The violence has reminded me of a line from an untitled poem by Nayyirah Waheed: “All the women inside of me are tired.”

The ‘Men Are Trash’ hashtag on social media sparked debates on gender-based violence and also brought issues of patriarchy in our society to light. Many men and even women on social media disagreed that #MenAreTrash, insisting that #NotAllMen are trash. The #MenAreTrash, however, allows the traditional concept of masculinity, which is currently problematic to be questioned as a whole.

The hashtag should be seen as an opportunity to engage issues that not only include women, but all members of society. Men should not feel attacked as a result of the hashtag. Women and even men should be allowed to discuss the challenges of being a female in society without being told that there are men who are good and responsible in their own spaces.

#NotAllMen, as a response, is a measure of consoling oneself as a man while overlooking  the fact that women face problems such as groping, cat-calling, being afraid to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, to name a few. It seems as if because men feel attacked by #MenAreTrash, the leaves of a problematic tree are being pulled, instead of the roots.

The cycle of patriarchy is vicious and leaves even the males who do not agree with patriarchy in a negative position where they, just as women, become vulnerable when speaking against patriarchy because it means they are disqualified from what it means to be a man.It is okay and courageous for a man to speak up against patriarchy.

Patriarchal norms and gender-based violence need to be collectively challenged. If being a good and responsible man in your own space means #NotAllMen are trash, then why has being a ‘good woman’ not reaped its fruits?

 

SLICE OF LIFE: Loving our African people

SLICE PICTURE

African people have become hostile towards each other over the past couple of years, and there have been quite a few people who have remained silent about the impact it has on the relations between African countries and its people.
Following the xenophobic protests and attacks against foreigners in Tshwane over a week ago, I had my daily check-in from social media and morning news channels. It honestly did not have any effect on me until a very close friend (partner) from Nigeria said to me; “Thuli, did you hear about these xenophobia attacks? Yah, nor it’s scary. I am not safe in South Africa at all.” That moment “shook” me. I stood still and had no response to his question, comment and fear.
Xenophobia is understood to be the dislike of or prejudice against people from other countries. South Africa has been one of the few countries on this continent that has regularly experienced xenophobic attacks against foreign African migrants for almost 10 years.
Well, this is my response.
How does a South African, like myself, maintain a level of patriotism when my fellow South Africans are involved in deliberate attacks against a fellow African? Why do we (South Africa) have to go through discriminatory violence and prejudice? Who is to blame for this incitement of violence?
In December 2016, Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba made some reckless public statements blaming illegal immigrants for crime and calling on them to leave the city. “Illegal immigrants are holding our country to ransom and I am going to be the last South African to allow it,” said Mayor Mashaba.
Africa is a beautiful and a big-enough continent to accommodate all those who wish to live here. One finds it hard to believe that South Africa is an exception. For instance, during the apartheid regime a number of people escaped to different African countries, and those countries opened borders and homes to accommodate them. How quickly we (South Africans) have forgotten.

How does a South African, like myself, maintain a level of patriotism when my fellow South Africans are involved in deliberate attacks against a fellow African?

On March 5, 2017, Eyewitness News reported that a coalition of organisations had warned government leaders and politicians to refrain from making statements which could incite xenophobia. The organisations, including Sonke Gender Justice and refugee organisation UniFam, marched to Parliament last Saturday to demand that government protect foreign nationals.
As a reaction towards the recent xenophobic attacks, the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, Enugu state chapter, threatened it would fight back if the killing of Nigerians in South Africa reoccurs, saying, “enough is enough”.
The worst thing one can experience when visiting a family member, friend or workplace is to find that your presence is unwelcomed.
Why can’t we live as one community with all our differences of race, nationality, ethnicity and religions? Africa is for all Africans.

I believe that we are African before we are South Africans. My support lies with those who are against the attacks on foreign nationals.

I believe that we are African before we are South Africans. My support lies with those who are against the attacks on foreign nationals.
“South Africa never leaves one indifferent. Its history, its population, its landscapes and cultures – all speak to the visitor, to the student, to the friend of Africa,” wrote Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss-Moroccan academic, philosopher and writer.
Xenophobia and unfair discrimination of human beings is childish and unacceptable and it needs to stop now.

 

RELATED ARTICLES 
Wits VuvuzelaWitsies say ‘no!’ to xenophobia. April 2015.

Wits Vuvuzela,  New website to blow the whistle on xenophobia. August 2016.

Wits Vuvuzela, Youth league marches against xenophobia. April 2015.

Sharing the pain of “adulting”

I remember my mother sending me a text message late last year in December nonchalantly saying: “By the way you’re on your own for medical aid beginning next year…”

She was speaking of 2017.

The amount of sad and crying face emojis I sent her immediately tossed her into a laughing frenzy. This was her way of telling me, “Welcome to the world of adults.”

Shock! Horror! “Adulting” soon became a reality. One that still has me #shook.

I felt like I was being kicked while I was down and out. Ok, maybe not down and out. But in my eyes, having just moved back home as a graduate, after years of being away at varsity and being broke counted towards my struggle argument.

Do you remember your first day in first grade, high school and the dreaded first day of university? Well, none of these phases could have prepared you for the “adulting” world that social media has turned into a trend.

If you haven’t noticed, Twitter and Instagram have become abuzz with the #Adulting craze lately. These are mostly young adults who have taken to these platforms to share their daily struggles and victories of being an adult. Most, who are not of our generation, think of “adulting” as a vain manner in which we self-congratulate.

Writer Danielle Tullo in Cosmopolitan insists that the word “adulting” implies that being an adult is not a necessary part of growing up but rather a life choice you’re hesitant to fully buy into.

I beg to differ. The thing is,we are already in this “adulting” thing whether we like it or not. We are fully aware of it but we choose to share these “adulting” moments with friends, acquaintances and loved ones because of a simple need to feel like we are not alone in the struggle. Yeah sure, we get a couple of giggles and likes along the way. But it is the mere fact of knowing that I am not the only twenty-something-year-old stressed about bills, savings and responsibilities with my barely-enough-to-go-around salary – we’re in this together.

“Adulting” is having to deal with the fact that for the first time in your life you are expected to have it all together: career, finances and relationships, amongst other things. It is finding yourself sitting behind your work desk even when it is raining cats and dogs outside and you would honestly rather be at home in your pyjamas watching series. But you understand being here pays your salary and that will ultimately afford you that first car you’ve been dreaming of.

Now that I have my newfound freedom – including no curfews – you’d think I’d have more time to hangout and party with friends but hardly any of that is coming my way. See, with “adulting”, spontaneity is almost always a myth because now you resort to planning engagements with friends since everyone is always busy. Delayed gratification becomes the norm.

The reality of taking on adult responsibilities is no easy task. There are days when I’m able to get through the ups and downs. There are other mornings when the dread and constant feeling of being thrown into the deep end can be overwhelming, making me want to crawl into bed next to my mother and have her comfort me through it all.

The reality of “adulting” is having to make things work even when you don’t have it all figured out.

So, excuse me and the other young adults who want to self-celebrate and give ourselves a pat on the back every now and then for even the smallest achievements of this “adulting” life.