Profile: Nhlanhla Khumalo
Content Partner: Activate! Leadership for Public Innovation

I have a lot of great childhood memories. One of my favourites is the trips my mom and I would take to the city. I remember putting on a floral dress, white stockings and my elephant shoes – my hair neatly braided into two “Benny and Betty” rows with ribbons tied on each row.

I also remember books. My house was filled with all sorts of books. My mother was not much of reader and she didn’t earn much but she always brought books home and I’ve been hooked since.

I was born and bred in Soweto- in the streets of a Venda and Tsonga dominated area called, Tshiawelo. My whole life I wanted to be a medical doctor and when that did not happen, I discovered that they are so many ways to heal people. In 2006, I was admitted into WITS University where I completed my Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. During this time, I realised that my world is wounded and it’s up to me to heal it. Therefore, I volunteered at the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) as a counsellor and at the WITS Adult Education Initiative Programme as a facilitator and project manager. My experiences on campus and at the SADAG rural outreach programmes helped me discover the vast need for literacy skills in this country; I discovered my passion for teaching and education and I realised the importance of giving back to the world what the world has given you.

I’m inspired to start a reading revolution – a revolution that is aimed at combatting both illiteracy and aliteracy. Our ANA results have been dreadful and I think in as much as the government is doing what they can to ensure that our children can read; their plans are not reaping the results we all want because too few of us are meeting them halfway. “Every man who knows how to read has it in his power to magnify himself, to multiply the ways in which he exists, to make his life full, significant and interesting” – Leaders read! If our children cannot read, then what kind of leaders are we breeding?

That is what motivated me to be an Activator. The Activate programme has, in a lot of ways, liberated my mind and most importantly, inspired me to start my revolution. Taking the time to learn about my community opened my eyes to a lot of challenges, opportunities and progress that my community is experiencing and the kind of impact I could make. The best elements of the programme are the strangers that turned into family. In a time were the youth is slated for being lazy and un-progressive – arms folded and palms opened; I’ve connected with young reformists who are mensch, who are driven and active. We’re no longer waiting for South Africa to change, for government systems to change – we are taking action towards change; action towards building a future that we can all be proud of.


Activate! Leadership for Public Innovation is a national network of young people committed to social transformation. United across race and class, they will develop the perspectives and skills of innovation needed to tackle some of South Africa’s most challenging social issues.
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