News / Opinion / Columns

Rhoda Kadalie
3 minute read
12 May 2017
6:51 am

Take a moment to really think about what being poor is like

Rhoda Kadalie

Millions of poor people are often entrepreneurial, but lack the basic conveniences to excel at anything.

FILE PICTURE: Diepsloot township, Extension 1 residents walk past a ditch of water in the area, 4 March 2014. Picture: Nigel Sibanda

Things the middle class take for granted do not exist for our millions of poor people.

My landlady’s domestic worker occasionally works for me. Her conversations are direct, refreshing, and completely un-ideological.

In a very matter-of-fact response to the discontent towards President Zuma and the ANC in Philippi, where she resides, she said, “Ons sal niks regkry nie, want ons is nie united nie. As mense maar net verstaan hoekom baie van ons kwaad is, sal hulle saamstaan en die land verander (We won’t get anything right because we’re not united. If people could only understand why so many of us are angry, they would stand together and change the country).”

She then proceeds to talk about the lack of cohesion in her community and how her success through hard work becomes a source of envy resulting in backbiting and gossip from neighbours, to even burglaries of her home she had worked hard to acquire.

But she perseveres and sings while she works, thanking God and her ancestors for work opportunities and any kindness bestowed on her.

In asking how her daughter, who is now in matric, is progressing, she told me a story that government needs to attend to urgently.

Unable to afford a computer, many black children at her daughter’s school pay R2 per page to have their assignments typed by someone else, and another fee to have it printed.

Given the large number of assignments the school kids are required to do, parents have to fork out a vast amounts of money regularly to pay typists and people with printing facilities to help with assignments.

It is unacceptable in this day and age for poor black students to struggle without the basic means of production.

Computers are costly and in the absence of landlines and ADSL lines, how are these kids expected to perform on a par with their peers in developed urban centres and households?

Lots of time, energy and money is wasted by kids who simply need to cope on a daily basis with the vagaries of education.

Trying to get to the open days hosted by universities was another chore. Just getting around is not only time consuming, and costly, but for girls it is especially dangerous.

If MPs forfeited their luxury cars, they could provide each of these kids with a computer and printer for the school. We need a direct intervention, not to speak of transport.

A few years ago I gave a young guy who had just left school an internship with my organisation simply because he loved constructing websites.

Realising the potential of this young man, I asked a friend to donate a laptop so that he could fulfil some of his dreams. I encouraged him to become an entrepreneur in his community by selling his services to people needing business cards, wedding invitations, and so on.

After spelling out all these ideas, he looked at me incredulously stating that ADSL lines did not exist in his area.

Things that we middle class people take for granted just do not exist for our millions of poor who are often entrepreneurial, but who simply lack the basic conveniences to excel at anything.

Walt Disney said “if you can dream it, you can do it”. Not so with the thousands of black kids in SA who dare to dream.

FILE PICTURE: Rhoda Kadalie, anti-apartheid activist, making a speech in Athlone.

FILE PICTURE: Rhoda Kadalie, anti-apartheid activist, making a speech in Athlone.

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