Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency (ANA)
Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency (ANA)

Journey of a lifetime begins for learners

By Waseem Carrim Time of article published Jan 8, 2019

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Cape Town – This week, hundreds of thousands of South African children will return to school and many more will be more than slightly nervous as they start their first day of school.

Social media will be flooded with pictures of proud parents holding their kids' hands and there will naturally be some tears as children from different backgrounds start a journey of a lifetime.

The right to education comes with many responsibilities. The teachers have the responsibility of inspiring learners and pushing them to learn, and parents for making sure they stay on track, get their homework done and don't spend every waking hour in front of the TV.

The government's responsibility is to set high standards, support teachers and principals and turn around the schools that aren't working, where learners are not getting the opportunities that they deserve.

However, at the end of the day we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, the best schools in the world and none of it will make an iota of a difference.

None of it will matter unless all our children fulfil their responsibilities and show up to those schools, pay attention to their teachers, listen to their parents and grandparents and other adults and put in the hard work that it takes to succeed.

I write my column today to all the young ones going back to and starting school. I want to start with the issue of responsibility.

Every single one of you has something that you're good at.

Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That's the opportunity which an education can provide.

This isn't just important for your own life and future. What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country - the future of South Africa depends on you.

What you're learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.

I know it's not always easy to do well in school. I know a lot of you have challenges in your lives that can make it hard to focus on your school work.

Perhaps you don't have adults in your life who give you the support that you need. Maybe someone in your family has lost their job and there's not enough money to go around.

Maybe you live in a neighbourhood where you don't feel safe, or have friends who are pressuring you to do things you know aren't right.

But at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life - what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you've got going on at home - none of that is an excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude in school.

That's no excuse for talking back to your teacher, cutting class or dropping out of school. There is no excuse for not trying. The truth is being successful is hard. You won't love every subject that you study and you won't click with every teacher.

That’s okay. Some of the most successful people in the world are the ones who've had the most failures. So, if you get into trouble, that doesn't mean you're a troublemaker, it means you need to try harder to act right. If you get a bad mark, that doesn't mean you're stupid. It just means you need to spend more time studying.

No one is born being good at all things. You become good at things through hard work. Don't be afraid to ask questions and ask for help when you need it.

I expect great things from each of you so don't let us down, your family down or your country down. Most of all, don't let yourself down.

Make us all proud.

Carrim is the chief executive of the National Youth Development Agency

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