Desperate dreams of Cape’s matrics

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Copy of ca p4 Konwaba Nkone done


Konwaba Nkone's hopes for the future have not dimmed despite a tight job market. Picture: Cindy Waxa

School’s out for summer – school’s out forever. But what’s next? This is the predicament facing 48 000 Western Cape matrics as they celebrate the end of their schooling and await their results on January 7. The Cape Argus asked 300 matrics in Manenberg and Khayelitsha about their dreams – and what was stopping them from coming true

Cape Town - Bursting out of school halls after writing their last big exam, most matrics could only think of that night’s party. But those who pause to think about the future have big dreams, plenty of hope, and a desperate desire to improve their lot.

However, their plans are about to come up against twin challenges: universities in the Western Cape can only accept 21 percent of applications, and the job market is extremely tough.

Most matrics – 68 percent – want to study further next year. But many have not applied to university, or may not achieve a university pass. Only 18 percent say they will look for jobs after matric.

According to Stats SA, 7 million South Africans who want jobs cannot find them. More than half of them are between 15 and 24.

The job market may have very little space for matriculants, but this hasn’t dimmed their great hopes. They will have a mountain to climb – and no one is better equipped to climb mountains than Konwaba Nkone.

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Sesethu Rawe, a fellow pupil at Masiyile High, wants to be the first person in her family to go to university. Picture: Cindy Waxa


Nkone, 19, lives with his grandmother in Khayelitsha and has just finished matric at Masiyile High. He has applied to study sports management at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) – as a stepping stone to a career doing what he loves: mountain climbing.

Nkone escapes to the mountain as often as he can. “When you grow up in the township, you don’t get space to think about yourself. You are always disturbed. When I’m in the mountains I get the time to listen to myself, to get to know myself.”

His grandmother, Thelma Nkone, is happiest when he’s far away from the dangers of Khayelitsha. “My soul is relieved, because I’m always worrying. When somebody comes and takes him up to the mountain he is safe.”

Nkone hikes with 15 other boys from the township. They call themselves Desert Rose, because they are trying to grow up beautiful in a barren place.

Last week, they climbed Table Mountain, stayed overnight in one of the mountain huts, then hiked down through Kirstenbosch. Conquering the mountain made Nkone feel unstoppable.

“I feel I’m going to pass matric. I feel there’s nothing I can’t do.”

Despite the many things Nkone dislikes about Khayelitsha, it’s where he wants to live once he’s a successful sports manager and mountain climber. “I don’t want to run away. I want to stay here so people can see this guy has made it. I want to be a role model.”

He hopes that when they see his success, they will believe they can achieve it too.

“Most of the guys end up doing bad things here,” he says. “They spend days sitting on the corner gaining nothing.

“They must stick to school. They must be strong and not give up. Then they will live a great life. Then they can get out of the township.”

A gap year appeals to matriculants who just want to earn some money, but is a bad idea in the long run, says Nkone. “You’re going to get a job at Shoprite, earn some money and forget about your career. Then later you have kids, and see that it’s not real money.”

Nkone is in it for the long run.

“I’m going to climb Kilimanjaro,” he says. “Nothing that can stop me.”

Sesethu Rawe, a fellow pupil at Masiyile High, wants to be the first person in her family to go to university. “Getting matric is not enough for me,” she says. “I want to do more.”

She had wanted to apply to CPUT, but only got as far as filling in the forms. She had only R50 of the R150 application fee, and couldn’t submit the paperwork.

Without acceptance to a university, Rawe doesn’t know what she will do.

“I’m blank. I don’t have any plans,” she says. “My mom doesn’t want me to work because she says I won’t go back to school.”

Rawe’s mother is in the Eastern Cape, while she lives with her uncle in Mfuleni.

“I would not be happy staying here,” she says. Just attending class was a battle some days, as she would not be able to pay the taxi fare to school in Khayelitsha.

Rawe’s mother wants her to be a teacher, but her heart is set on being a lawyer and living in Sandton. “I like to solve other people’s problems, and I’m a good adviser. I’m really interested in law.”

Her classmates are also at a loss about future study. Some got unskilled jobs to earn some money. Then they never study further.

“Money is the root of all evil,” she says. “They want to get jobs because their family can’t support them. They finish matric and they think they are done. But the job is not good, and it’s not permanent. Then when you’ve had a job it’s hard to go back to school.”

Rawe is anxious about her results. She failed her June exams, but improved in September. She studied with two classmates: they helped her with maths while she taught them to do summaries for the language papers.

“I worked hard.”

According to the Cape Argus survey, business was by far the favourite job category selected by matrics imagining their ideal life in 10 years. Social work was next, followed by accounting, natural and physical sciences, and hospitality.

Unskilled jobs were selected by 20 percent, who said they aimed to work in shops, join the army or work for the city council.

Most matrics want families, but they don’t want to raise them in the same place they grew up. A staggering majority want to move away and better their living conditions.

Out of 108 responses from matrics at school in Manenberg, 22 wanted to live “anywhere but Manenberg” or “anywhere outside the townships”.

Eighty percent believe they will achieve their dreams, and 5 percent don’t think they will ever have the job or house they want. They say the biggest barrier between them and their dreams is money.

Western Cape Education MEC Donald Grant says he is confident school has prepared pupils for the next stage of their lives.

“The fact is, their future is now in their hands and they must grasp the opportunities that come their way. This next phase in their lives may seem daunting. However, without even knowing it they have been equipping themselves over the past 12 years, bit by bit.”

“I sincerely hope that their dreams become reality.”

Fast figures from the informal Cape Argus matric survey:

* 68 percent plan to study next year.

* 18 percent plan to look for a job.

* 11 percent have no plans.

* 34 percent want highly skilled jobs that require an honours or master’s degree, such as engineering, law, medicine, or accounting.

* 20 percent want unskilled jobs such as construction, shop work, joining the army, or becoming air hostesses.

* 19 percent indicate they want to go into business on some level.

* 80 percent think they will reach their goals.

* 15 percent think there’s a chance they will reach their goals.

* 5 percent don’t think they will reach their goals.

* 22 percent say school marks are their biggest obstacle.

* 88 percent want a family in the future.

* 15 percent would like to live where they currently do.

* 63 percent specifically want to live in the suburbs.

* 5% want to live out of Cape Town.

* 3.6 percent want to leave the country.

Data capturing by Terzel Rasmus

Cape Argus

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