I’ve never liked writing or talking about my problems, what is bothering me, or what stresses me, but tonight I’m going to give it a try. I feel that when you talk or write about your problems it’s like you want people to feel pity for you. It’s as though you’re asking for sympathy. As many people say, “Talking about your problems or jotting down what’s bothering you and sharing it with someone can help a lot. It relieves you, helping to unburden what you’ve kept inside for weeks, months, or even years.” I will not agree with this view until I’m done writing this piece and someone reads it, comments on it, and helps me feel a sense of relief. I hope writing this will help relieve the depression I sometimes feel.

Let me start here: It is Sunday night and I’m busy with my Education assignment that is due this coming week, with two other assignments waiting to be finished as well. My phone’s been off since Friday, meaning I won’t get to use Google tonight for this assignment. There’s been no electricity since Friday because our landlord has unplugged the cord that connects my electricity to his house. He lied to me and my mother about it, saying that the electrical switch to our house is damaged.

This is why I decided to light a candle, though I’m sure it will go out while the assignment I’m doing remains incomplete. What is happening tonight makes me think back to my family’s struggles years ago, something I wish I weren’t thinking about because it hurts. I forgot to tell you that we are the backyarders in this house, so there are two shacks, my parents’ and mine. We’ve been backyarders in this area for about 24 or 25 years, I’m not sure exactly. What I am sure of is that we’ve been backyarders since my older sister and I were born. What we do is change between different houses.

Life at home, back then, was hard and honestly, it still is. I think if you were in my shoes back then you would’ve left home and found yourself a street kid, doing unnecessary stuff, the kind of stuff that can get you into trouble and even make you end up in jail or juvenile, the kind of stuff that can damage your health, like taking drugs. The thing is, in the area that I’m staying in, I’ve seen these things happening with my own eyes: young people committing crime and taking drugs because there’s nothing for them at home, mothers and fathers always fighting when they are drunk, et cetera et cetera. Anyway, I will not get into the details about my flashbacks because I don’t want this essay to bore you.

Currently, my father is not working. Last year, before he got retrenched, he was working in construction, but I’m glad he stopped working because he never stops drinking when he has money. Whenever he got a job, he drank and never cared for us. He never gives money to his wife to feed his children. When the job is over, there’s no more drinking. He’s been like this all these years and never listens to any of us, least of all his wife.

There would even be arguments and fights when father had money. At that time my mother was volunteering at a day care and when we (me and my sister) came back from school, we knew we would eat leftovers mother brought us from work. On the weekends, she would wash clothes for the rich families on our street to earn some extra money. She did that all these years so that her children could go to school, have something to eat, and ultimately survive. I am so proud of my mother.

We were never given lunch money for school or even a lunchbox like the other children. We were only given our child support grant at the end of each month, and of course we would be excited to receive it. I never had a birthday, or rather I should say, my birthday has never been celebrated like those of other children. No one ever bought a cake for me, not even my parents.

Hear me well, I don’t blame them because I understand there was no money. Nevertheless, my birthday never passed without a smile. My mother would always wish me a happy birthday even though she didn’t have a thing. My friends would never fail to do the same. This always made me smile.

“Oh no!” The candle is beginning to flicker, a sign that in a few moments’ time the light will be gone altogether. Noticing that I was deep in thought, I stopped writing my assignment.

Kuzolunga mntanam nale izodlula, all will be well, this one will pass as well,” my mother assured me when she saw the sadness and anger in me.

She also noticed that my mind was elsewhere, which it really was. Mother and home are the reason I’m having these flashbacks. They are also the reason I don’t give up and keep going. Muimeleli Mutangwa says, “Long-lasting motivation is personal. It is specific to a person and the task to be achieved. Why is it important to you to complete a certain task? Your ‘why’ is what should motivate you.” He then says, “Motivation makes the impossible possible, it lifts your spirit when you think that giving up is the only option.”

So to keep the story short, did I tell you I am a second year student at CPUT (Cape Peninsula University of Technology) studying Education? Well, I am, and I’m supposed to have finished tertiary level by now, since I finished matric in 2010. But, because of the struggle at home, I had to get a job and work for three years, until 2013. In 2014, after being accepted at CPUT, I finally continued my education. I missed school so much. Yes, I repeated two subjects, which is why I’m still a second year. I’m not proud of that and it will never happen again.

Still, I’m proud that I am the first child from my family to reach varsity and I can see that my parents are proud as well. I also hope not to be the last, and thankfully my younger sister, who is in grade 12, is giving me confidence that I won’t be. My older sister is working. She dropped out of school after finishing Grade 11 and decided to get a job. She is still working and I’m being supported by her, as is the rest of my family. Since my first day at varsity she’s been supporting me. She gives me transport allowance although she doesn’t earn much. Her job is keeping a braai stand and selling meat. She is braaing every day; that’s how she earns money.

The struggle at home and Muimeleli Mutangwa’s quotes are what keep me going. They remind me not to give up and to be motivated to make a change in the world and in South Africa’s education system. I can’t wait to graduate.


Tell us: What keeps you going when you felt down?