Witsies teach Soweto learners about the path less travelled

PLAN A: Wits Masters students part of the non-profit organisation Rethink Africa hosted a career day at Morris Isaacson Secondary School in Soweto yesterday.  They identified a need to make information about career options more accessible to grade nine and 10 learners from underprivileged areas.  The day served to give learners guidance in their subject choices to further their tertiary education.   Photo: Lameez Omarjee  ​

PLAN A: Wits Masters students hosted a career day at Morris Isaacson Secondary School in Soweto yesterday after they identified the need to make information about career options more accessible to learners from underprivileged areas.
Photo: Lameez Omarjee

A group of Witsies spent part of their weekend with learners at the Morris Isaacson Secondary School yesterday to try and expose the youngsters to a wider range of careers options.

The Masters in Development Theory and Policy students, who are also part of the non-profit organisation, Rethink Africa, visited the school in Soweto to “express the broadness of the choices” available to grade nine and 10 learners.

“Normally people are told you can either be an accountant, engineer or physicist but there are other careers that people never get a taste of,” said Witsie Ayabonga Cawe.

Empowering choices

Cawe said one of the most important things of the initiative is to share information not normally accessible to students of Soweto.  “One of the biggest challenges is that most people don’t see themselves going to university.  They don’t have resources to get there and don’t have role models in their social network who have been to university and done so successfully,” he said.

The purpose of the day’s event was to “empower young people in local communities, specifically in the underprivileged areas,” said one of the organisers, Nompumelelo Melaphi.

The event, in partnership with the School of Economics and Business Sciences, included up to 135 high school students from Emshukantambo, Morris Isaacson, Immaculate and Reasoma schools.

“Us coming up here and actually giving career advice and informing them of ways to finance their studies is very useful in them planning ahead.” 

Witsie Siya Biniza said it was important to host the event as the students were entering the most “decisive year of their high school career.”

“Us coming up here and actually giving career advice and informing them of ways to finance their studies is very useful in them planning ahead.”

This is the second year the event has taken place and there are hopes to expand it to the Eastern Cape and other provinces, according to Masters student Gillian Chigumira.

The learners were encouraged to study in all fields, including science, arts and commerce. Economists, doctors and forensic anthropologists also addressed the learners as part of the day’s programme.

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SLICE OF LIFE: Face the music

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Music is something that strikes a chord in everyone. Whether rock, pop, jazz or classical music, it affects people in different ways.

For someone privileged enough to grow up in a musical family, there is no doubt it has affected the way I think, react or even see things.

As a teenager, I was bullied throughout high school. Yes, the hugs, love and support from my family helped a lot but it was music that gave me strength to get through the day, almost every day. It was my escape (that and video games! Call me a nerd). If things were bad, I would literally switch myself off from the world, plug in my earphones and put on a hard-core Foo Fightersor Red Hot ChiliPeppers song. One of my favourites being Foo Fighters’ The Pretender – a song that, even today, still gets me through difficult days.

What if I say I’m not like the others,” a line in the song’s chorus, taught me that being different does not mean you are “weird” or a nerd.

You don’t have to be ashamed of who you are or of what makes you, you! Not being part of a popular clique doesn’t mean you are worthless. In fact it means you don’t have to conform to their ideals. You can think freely and openly and do things that you enjoy without feeling ashamed or with the pressure of such cliques.

I wasn’t not facing my reality or in denial about my school difficulties; chatting with therapists, teachers and mentors gave me hope too during many a dark day. But music became my outlet – listening to it, playing guitar and singing helped me to keep going. As long as the lyrics flowed I was able to keep moving forward with things too. A definite life lesson learnt through my love of song because, if you think about it, music is infinite.

Music represents many things. To me, it’s patience – because you have to wait to get to the crux or climax of a song just as “all good things come to those who wait”. Tolerance – because you can’t love every piece of music that is released or played on radio, but at times you have to just go with it – it’s the same with life. You can’t connect with everyone but it’s important to tolerate people for who they are. And finally, acceptance – because lyrics speak to one’s heart and sometimes, through relating to them, we can learn to accept both the good and bad moments in life.

My love of music has not stopped during my time at university. Music can, and almost always does, affect my mood, thought processes or even work ethic. When I’m working or need a burst of energy, a little Benny Goodman goes a long way. Feeling sad, one goes the Ellie Goulding, Anna Nalick and Kate Nash route. For those happier occasions, well Pharell Williams’s Happy, some Coldplayor The Beatlescomes to mind. Music even gets me through the daily stresses of traffic – without it I almost struggle to concentrate on the road.

At times I even associate music with life moments. When reminiscing about old flames or heartbreak, Jim Reeves and Johnny Cash play on an unbreakable loop in my mind (and on my MP3 player).

Music is my life, it’s who I am and it’s what I stand for. I live with music and, better yet, I live for it.