Struggle for better education still continues even today, says actress Leleti Khumalo
Sarafina, the musical drama film based on playwright Mbongeni Ngema’s 1987 musical of the same name, was released in theatres about 28 years ago.
However, even today South Africans watch the film yearly in commemoration of June 16, 1976. It has a large impact in telling the story of the Soweto uprisings.
Khumalo, who played the lead role in the film and theatre productions, told The Star that being part of such an iconic story was amazing because Sarafina was not just a South African story. She said it was one that people related to across Africa.
“It is very important to tell stories that people can relate to and stories that mean something to people. It was a given that Sarafina had to be this successful because it was talking about what was happening then. People can relate to the story, they went through it - they know exactly what the movie is about,” she said.
The narrative centres on learners involved in the Soweto uprising in opposition to the implementation of Afrikaans as the language of instruction in schools and Bantu education.
Khumalo said that the country was still fighting for equal education and it would continue to be a battle until someone did something about it.
“There is such a difference between education in the townships and in the suburbs. It is so different. We cannot have that, we are still fighting for equality,” she said.
The Imbewu: The Seed actress added that inequality contributed to the bullying of children in schools because of the way they looked or how they talked.
“Some children get the sense that they are not supposed to be in suburban schools, that they are supposed to go to ‘their’ schools in the township. The Struggle will never end until we get the same level of education for all,” she said.
Khumalo added that improvement since the apartheid era was minimal.
“We cannot say, ‘Well, they are doing something about it, and we see there is an improvement.’ No! They need to do something about it. As a start, education needs to be free for everyone. We really are still a long way from equality,” she said.
Khumalo, who was one of the first female leads in a large production such as Sarafina said she felt fortunate and blessed by her journey in the entertainment industry. She added that the film and theatre productions opened a lot of people’s minds about South Africa in the industry and outside the country.
“Females now have the strength to walk the same path that I did, ‘If Leleti can do it, then I can do it too.’ It makes me feel so proud to be part of history, and again I really appreciate it,” she said.
The actress added that on Thursday she heard a woman on the radio saying she was going home to watch the film and learn all the choreography.
“I was blown away! I thought this is amazing, and before I went to sleep, I thought maybe I should do something online and open up to those small groups - the 1970s generation, 1980s generation, 1990s generation, the children of Sarafina,” she said.@Chulu_M