Ever wondered what is was like on the other side of the fence? The chance to be surrounded by privilege, the opportunity to do things you’ve always wanted? Well Azariah Alexander, 21, had such an opportunity awarded to him. Azariah, who is academically inclined, although he’d suggest otherwise, had the amazing chance to attend Bishops Diocesan College, one of the top schools in South Africa. He went through a gruelling application process in order to receive a scholarship to attend any school in South Africa and he opted for Bishops as he wanted to be close to his family.
As much as it sounds like Azariah was privileged, the truth is that he was an average coloured kid hoping to make things happen for himself. He grew up with his parents, siblings and grandparents. Although the living arrangement was somewhat crowded, he didn’t mind because he was surrounded by people who loved him. At age 11 Azariah’s parents divorced and unlike most situations where the kids live with their mom, Azariah and his sister stayed with their dad.
Bishops Diocesan College was, as Azariah explains, a place that “… instilled various values which I wish to teach to my children one day, such as respect and the strength of a group. As well as providing me with an amazing education and even more educational resources. It also allowed me to network with future world leaders based on their family wealth and connections.”
But just because he attended an elite school didn’t mean that there weren’t any challenges.
“With a single parent earning minimum wage did not provide me with the same prestige as other mainly white individuals resulting in a feeling of being ostracised.”
This experience is not uncommon in South Africa and is the reality of many in the country. Azariah explained that many students who were white wore their privilege as some kind of badge of honour, and the majority of the underprivileged boys were people of colour.
“For the first time I experienced racism, as at my primary school there were only coloured and black children, who all fell into the same wealth bracket.”
Azariah says that the challenges at Bishops was an experience that he was happy to have gone through because it allowed him to open his eyes to the reality of our county’s current state and the domino effect of the apartheid laws.
Despite the racism that he faced, Azariah still enjoyed his high school experience and especially the boarding house where some of his fondest memories were made.
To get him through the challenges of school and university Azariah mentions he only succeeded because of his faith in God and his supportive family. He has a deep admiration and looks up to his father. Azariah spoke of how he managed to prepare for tests and learnt to harness his leadership skills because of his father who is a sports coach and his personal life coach.
Azariah was and is so academically inclined, hardworking and determined that he received the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation scholarship throughout high school and even went on to receive a fellowship in university. There’s no doubt about it, Azariah’s hard work, sacrifices and positive attitude has gotten him so far in life.
Azariah is currently in his third year of studying law at the University of Cape Town and is the chairman of the non-profit organisation, New Season Foundation.
“Today I will do what others won’t so tomorrow I can do what others can’t.” This is a quote by Jerry Rice that Azariah holds onto in his daily life.
Azariah explains that he didn’t attend many events and instead studied until late at night and even up until early hours of the morning. His words of advice are simply: “If you make certain sacrifices, you will reap the rewards later on.”
Azariah’s story proves that if you work hard in life you’ll succeed no matter the challenges that come your way. Opportunities are awarded because of hard work and not because of sitting idly and waiting for something to come your way. Go out there and work, work hard.
If you enjoyed this piece, then read about a guy who made it out of his hometown through hard work here
Tell us: What life lessons did you learn from Azariah?