Settling in to a new city is not easy, especially when you have no relative or friends nearby. But organisations like Rural Education Access Programme (REAP) can help make your transition smooth. Silindokuhle Tsotso (27) from the Eastern Cape, who currently resides in Johannesburg, remembers how REAP made his first days in Joburg pleasant.
“REAP provides you with all the support you need and actually makes it hard for you to fail, cos you have all the things you require at your disposal. They have everything covered. Their student advisors were available at all at times and I’ve never felt lonely there cos they were just a phone call away.
“The transition was without any glitches. Being alone with no parent guidance is not child’s play, but I didn’t have it hard because of all the workshops that help you adjust well.”
Silindokuhle studied towards his Bachelor in Law degree at Wits University and graduated in 2011.
After all the help he got from the organisation, it was a logical move to plough back into the garden that tended him, so other students may reap similar fruits to his.
“What attracted me was their mentorship programme that helps first year students have a smooth transition. I got to be a mentor where I was helping first year students. I would fetch them at the station and introduce them to their residence rooms, and assist them with their campus life and work,” he says. Silindokuhle served as a mentor for REAP beneficiaries between 2009 and 2011.
There Silindokuhle was, lending a shoulder to cry on for other students, but who instilled ubuntu values in him?
“My grandparents raised me up on their own, and taught me love at an early age. I knew my granny as my mom cos my biological mom had to drop out of school to fend for us, so she spent most of her life in Gauteng. They treated us as their own child, not their daughter’s,” says Silindokuhle. (He has two other siblings.)
Silindokuhle is forever grateful to his grandparents for the support they’ve granted him, and says he’s never felt his mother’s absence. “It never bothered me cos our grandparents closed that entire void and we’ve never felt her absence. We are everything we are today because of their love and patience with us,” he adds.
Silindokuhle served at Legal Aid South Africa for two years before starting at his current post at PSG Wealth as a legal advisor in 2015.
“I used to represent clients who could not afford to pay for legal services at Legal Aid. My responsibility went beyond just taking clients out of prison … I had to ensure that I connect them with social workers for rehabilitation. I had to help them change their lives so they never end up there again. It was hard cos some came from challenging backgrounds where they deem crime as their only means of survival.”
Silindokuhle has some advice for all the youth out there: “Know what you want and believe that whatever your mind can conceive [you can do]. If I could make it in life, what will stop you? You’re capable of becoming anything you want to be as long as you set your heart to it.”