Rural dwellers often flock to cities such as Johannesburg and Cape Town in search of ‘greener pastures’. In a twist of events, Lethabo Dikgale left Johannesburg for Polokwane as what she had to offer to her hometown was more than what Joburg could give her.

“I was born and bred in Ga-Dikgale in Polokwane, Limpopo. I am the last of four children. I was raised by both my parents and always enjoyed being the princess of the castle. Then I was unleashed on the world of Johannesburg for five years where I studied at the University of Johannesburg (UJ).

“I grew accustomed to the eclectic life filled with coffee aromas and good foodie destinations. During the last year of my studies I also worked part time as an administrative assistant and tutor at Master Maths and Sciences. After my studies I resigned my job and moved back home,” says Lethabo who holds BCom Honours in Human Resource Management.

On her arrival to Polokwane, Lethabo was greeted by harsh reality.

“I’ve always envisioned myself as a [community] developer. I enjoy learning new things and I believe that the mind has to be developed constantly. When I returned home… I began to realise the gaps in the learning of the children in our community, and how they will have to compete with the world someday,” says the twenty-four-year old.

The big question was how was she going to solve the puzzle, and Lethabo had the answer figured out already.

“I began my quest to building the non-profit organisation LearnNerd with the aim of ensuring that the children in my community will have access to a library and books and information. LearnNerd is building a community of readers and learned minds. We are availing books to open up the minds of the children and youth of Ga-Dikgale.”

LearnNerd operates with schools in and around Polokwane.

“There’s an NGO called S.T.A.R.T that often help me plan and execute community events. The local schools principals make things a bit easier for me by allowing me access to their schools and children. the Polokwane City Library [also] invites LearnNerd to bring children through to their events.”

She echoes FunDza’s words on the significance of reading for pleasure.

“I started reading at a young age and have seen that it has helped me through my schooling. School work was not daunting for me because I was used to reading for leisure, and thus my brain did not perceive it as a chore. Reading opens up perspective,” she emphasizes.

Lethabo’s love for learning stems from an early age, with her mother being an educator at the same primary she attended.

“My house is on the same street as the primary schools and church that I went to when I grew up, so there was actually no room to bunk school and church. I had to always be on my best behavior. Whenever I got good marks it wouldn’t be because I worked hard for it but rather ‘my mom gave me the answers’. I made up for it by being actively involved in class and actually pushing myself harder.”

Lethabo didn’t find it hard to walk in the shoes of those who don’t get quality education – she was once them.

“The transition from public school to a Model C school was challenging for me and to top it all it was high school; despite all the schooling I’ve had in my tender years, there was still a large gap to bridge between me and the other kids who started schooling in Model C schools.

It took me over a year to come up to par. Everything had changed – it was the clean slate that I did not ask for. I realized that life is a shark tank – either you become a shark, or you learn to defend yourself, or just be devoured.”

Talking about learning, Lethabo reflects on the importance of education.

“It is the epitome of one’s life. A life without any education is tunneled. By education I do not imply the certificates that can be accumulated simply by passing set tests, I’m referring to the development of the mind, cognition, perception and learning in its entirety.

“An educated mind has the right to reason and question, but the uneducated mind is content and cannot be bothered,” she adds.

Lethabo thanks her family for giving her the bricks to build her life instead of constructing it for her.

“My family has created an environment that allows me to do whatever I set my mind to. The trophy goes to them. I appreciate that they are not meddlers and they allow me to make mistakes and learn from them. The thought that whatever it is that I will be doing during the day will someday change someone else’s life and story also keeps me going.”

Lethabo wraps up with a few words of encouragement.

“Margaret Thatcher said ‘You may have to fight the same battle more than once to win it,’; in the same light, keep at it – fall down, stand up, dust yourself off however long it takes, and know that you are above this situation. You always have a choice. Just be certain that you are alright with whatever you decide.”