High school can be the best or the worst time of your life. It’s where you spend most of your time; it’s more home than your house could ever be. But add in a lockdown that forces you to stay home and learn half the curriculum on your own, and you have a learner stressing about her end of year results.
Our next Inspiring Tomorrow candidate, Lelethu Dyasi, is 17 years old and doing grade 11. She has had to adapt to the strange normal that we are currently experiencing. She was born and raised in Bloekombos (nicknamed Bosmo), a small township in Kraaifontein.
“I was born here in Bosmo. I was the first child for my mom. My mom didn’t work, so all my life I was provided for by my aunt who is my mom’s youngest sister. My mom was an alcoholic and it was hard to comprehend that she was mom as she never was motherly towards me. Growing up was just a vortex of shame, love and sadness.”
As she grew up, Lelethu’s relationship with her mother didn’t get any better. She finished primary school at Ekuthuleni Primary and strived for greatness in school because life at home was not good.
“We were poor at home. The one room house at that point had about six grandchildren and about five adults that all depended on my granny’s grant money. My aunt supported me, my sister and brother who were both born the same year, five years after I was born. She bought us two outfits per year so we can have new clothes for December.”
Lelethu was doing very well in school, she always passed with first or second place marks in primary school. Seeing that her mother wasn’t taking care of her and her siblings, she started working at a car wash that paid her around R40 or R60 per day. She used that money to buy things like stationery or uniforms for her and her siblings.
“I worked at the car wash after school hours and again on weekends. I was also able to contribute at home to help my granny with groceries as well. My mom was starting to get better. I think she saw how selfish alcoholism is and she wanted to get better for us but also for herself.”
Lelethu’s mother started getting better around June 2019. She got a job and moved out of Lelethu’s granny’s house. She bought her own shack and Lelethu and her siblings moved in with her. This was a time of healing for Lelethu as she saw that her mom was taking the right steps in recovering.
“My mom stopping drinking has to be the best moment of my life because it was a moment of reminding me that I am a child, I am allowed a childhood like my siblings. The better she got the more I had to learn to be her child again. What’s unfortunate about growing up elokishini is that kids have to grow up very early on in life.”
The young lady says that when the pandemic started, she didn’t think that it would do as much damage as it has.
“I don’t have a laptop and when we had to do a project, I didn’t even have money to go to an internet café. Online learning has been a disadvantage as we weren’t provided with proper resources to deal with it. I started getting depressed, I felt like I was failing and it was out my control.”
The depression hit Lelethu hard. She started drinking. She says she went through a period of giving up. She started going out with bad friends who were doing drugs but her wake up call was the hardest slap she never expected.
“During level four I think there was a curfew and it was everyone should be home at eight, my friends and I didn’t listen. Policemen arrested me and another friends of mine because we were not wearing masks. I remember being in a room with other kids my age and I was ashamed of myself. Imagine calling your mom to tell her that you got arrested.”
She says her behaviour reminded her why she didn’t want to be her mother. It was the wake up call she needed as she stopped drinking after that and started paying attention in school again.
“When the president announced that we can go to school I was so relieved, I got access to my teachers again, they helped with the things I didn’t understand with the curriculum. At this point I think that I am passing. I still get depressed, I still get tempted to go back to the bad crowd but I know what I need and it’s more important than what I want at this moment.”
Lelethu is doing well at school, she is expecting to matriculate next year. Now she is working part time at the car wash; she is saving that money for her matric dance in 2021.
This young lady is an example that life isn’t full of happy endings but even though life is still hard she is willing to fight for things that mean the most to her: her family and her dreams. Life is always going to have obstacles but what matters the most is how you fight for yourself despite them.
Want to read about a guy that is finding success through hard work? Read more here
Tell us: What did you learn from Lelethu’s story?