My library, my pride! Little did I know that using e-learning services at libraries could change my life.

It was my last year at the high school, and being one of the student representatives, my school principal selected me to deliver a speech on the annual youth day celebration of my great country South Africa, which was to be held at the school premises. I accepted being selected as the speech presenter for this great occasion with mixed feelings. Why? My principal informed me just one week before the event. I had a lot of class assignments to submit around that time. The day was just too near for me to prepare a good speech, but what could I do?

As I was walking home, slowly and worriedly, a thought flashed through my mind, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Like a thirsty soul who has found a cup of cold water, I was motivated. I muttered repeatedly to myself, “Yes, I can do it, I can write and deliver a good speech.” But how could I? I was still lost in my thoughts on how to compose and structure my speech. Then suddenly I remembered the Jabavu Library. I remembered that I had once seen a posting on one of their noticeboards that the first step to writing and presenting a good speech is getting information on the topic.

I jumped and shouted “Eureka”, just like Archimedes had done when he discovered the method for determining the volume of objects with an irregular shape.

Like a guy who wanted to propose to a lady for the first time, I could not sleep when I got home. I wished I could fast track my night to the next morning. I wanted to get into the library immediately and get information I needed to write. At 8 o’clock in the morning, I was already dressed, and I’d left for the library.

My Jabavu library is one of the public libraries in the City of Johannesburg, located in Soweto. It has computer facilities with free internet, free wifi, free access to e-resources, and e-books. It has a serene and conducive atmosphere for reading and researching.

After signing in at the library, I went straight to one of the computers, and searched for the information I needed to compose my speech. Part of the words I searched for, were the words related to my topic – those spoken by Nelson Mandela, the father of our nation. The topic of my speech was “African Youth: Bold and the Best”.

From using the free internet at the library, I discovered that knowledge is the first thing youths should acquire, and this can only be gained through education. Furthermore, I discovered that young people should not be afraid – no matter what their past failures – and that we should be ready to take on responsibilities.

Through my research I was able to find quotes from Nelson Mandela, such as these: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world… Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again… Our children are our greatest treasure. They are our future… The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear… I admire young people who are concerned with the affairs of their community and nation perhaps because I also became involved in struggle whist I was still at school.”

After I finished the writing of my speech, I felt good and left for home.

Alas! It was youth day. Everyone was seated – the invited guests, parents, community members, teachers and all students. After the welcoming address by the school principal, the national anthem was sung and I was called on to deliver my speech.

My heart began beating fast, but I took a deep breath and muttered: “It seems impossible until it is done…”

I spoke out the words of my written speech with such confidence that everyone could not wait until I finished my speech before they stood to their feet to give me resounding applause. I was so happy, that I walked back to my seat like a king afterwards.

Aside from this, there was another significant event that changed my life. The vice-chancellor of my top choice university to study at after high school was one of the invited guests. On hearing my speech, he offered me a full scholarship for my all my studies, from undergraduate till doctorate level.

This single event changed the rest of my life. Indeed, I did not know that using the e-learning services at my library then, would change my life, my education life in particular!

* This essay was submitted as part of the City of Johannesburg Libraries eLearning Essay Writing Competition. It was selected as a highly commended entry.