Archbishop Desmond Tutu was born in 1931, son of a primary school Principal, opponent of apartheid, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize (1984), author, and served as chairman of South Africa’s Truth & Reconciliation Commission.
The Archbishop wrote the introduction to a book entitled Reclaiming Youth At Risk: Our Hope For The Future. We’d like to share the introduction with you.
“Children from difficult circumstances need someone to throw them a lifeline since it is very difficult to pull oneself up by one’s own boot strings. Without help, too many young persons will drop out of school, become involved in substance abuse, and increase the population in jails. We talk about youth as if they are statistics, but they are not statistics. Perhaps we should ask, “What would you do if this was your child?””
“We have based our whole society on power; portraying compassion, gentleness, and caring as “sissy” qualities. Tough, macho – this is how you should operate. Children adopt these values because they are so prevalent.”
“I fear that our wonderful expressions of concern for young people are often just so much baloney. This is all hot air because our deeds speak far more eloquently than words.”
“We must realise that it is a very, very shortsighted policy if we fail to redeem and salvage our most needy young people.”
“A great deal of violence happens among young persons who feel that their lives will end in a cul-de-sac. They may come from depressed communities and lack father figures or caring adults. Without human comfort and outlets for wholesome recreation, they may turn to drugs for excitement and seek status or security in guns and knives. They desperately want to count, but take shortcuts to gaining respect. If you can’t be recognized for doing good, maybe people will take notice of you if you are troublesome.”
Chaylon attends the Friday carpentry training for boys who struggle with reading. After weeks of perfect attendance, Chaylon missed 2 consecutive Fridays because his only pair of shoes were no longer wearable.
We purchased shoes and socks for Chaylon last Thursday and he returned to the carpentry programme the following day.
Three weeks ago, 17 year-old Thembelani returned to high school after missing the initial 2 months of the academic year. There were many hurdles to overcome, the least of which was money for school shoes and school fees. Thembelani recently messaged the following to Jim:
“no I should b da 1 whose thinkin u for everything u have done for me and showin me how important education is and for that salute u. ure da first person who learned me somethin important.”
Leighton (centre) turned 14 in January and commenced grade 8 in January 2017. One month ago, Leighton’s high school deregistered him based on 11 days of arriving late or being absent. Leighton’s mother only learned about his lateness and absenteeism on the day he was deregistered.
Department of Education policy dictates that “Schools have a responsibility…to investigate and to assist parents and learners to remedy the situation”. On behalf of Leighton’s mother, Jim contacted the Department of Education and officials intervened. Three weeks later, Leighton was permitted to return to school.
Listen to Siyathemba’s thank-you for the reconditioned laptop he received in January 2017, prior to commencing his first year at the University of Western Cape. We met Siyathemba when he was in grade 8 and he regularly attended our Bulele mentorship meetings the past 4 years.
Thank you for following our initiatives in South Africa, and caring about the youth whose stories we are able to share. In the interest of confidentiality and youth safety, there are some stories or details we are unable to share. The physical and emotional abuse faced by too many boys at home, or on the street, is real. While none of the youth are perfect, and they sometimes behave like typical teenage boys, their determination in the face of hunger, inadequate housing, or lack of shoes/basic clothing, is impressive.
Janet, Jim, and Clarke